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Conflict of Interest and Consulting Policy Guidelines

For future reference, please use this guidelines as an addition to Section 152: External Professional Activities of the NDSU Policy Manual. Section 151.1: External Activities and Conflicts of Interest details potential conflicts of interest that can occur during consulting activities.

Section 823: Financial Disclosure - Sponsored Projects details procedures to disclose financial interests that may conflict with externally funded projects. The North Dakota State University policy manual regulations concerning consulting and outside activities are relatively easy to interpret. In some cases, however, faculty and staff with Extension appointments may find these regulations somewhat more difficult to interpret due to conflict of interest concerns. Extension is an outreach educational unit of the university. Extension activities require considerable interaction with the public, public institutions and commercial concerns. This makes it difficult to determine where normal Extension responsibilities end and where an outside consulting responsibility might start.

The following guidelines are intended to clarify the conflict of interest policy for NDSU Extension Service employees regardless of level of appointment. NDSU policies on conflict of interest apply to Extension employees unless greater restrictions of a specific activity are described within these Extension guidelines.


A. Consulting for Pay

Consulting for pay may create a perceived or actual conflict of interest when the consulting for pay could be construed as being part of the Extension employee’s normal job responsibility or expertise. Extension employees cannot consult for pay within North Dakota if the consulting work relates to their job responsibility or expertise. Consulting for pay is permitted if the activity is outside North Dakota and does not create potential conflicts of interest that could create questions about their impartial position to North Dakota clientele.

Extension employees can enter into consulting relationships (i.e. fee for service) pursuant to this guideline if the consulting arrangement is managed through a contract with the university. The external funding provided through this contract can be placed in a project account for the employee’s project use. These funds also may be used as a source for overload pay for the employee if the overload is approved.

An Extension employee may do out-of-state consulting for pay providing that:

  1. A university Consulting Authorization Request form is completed and signed by the appropriate department head or district director in addition to others identified on this form. A substantial change in consulting activity or clientele must be approved by submitting a new request form.
  2. The outside consulting activities are not likely to be construed as a conflict of interest.
  3. The outside consulting is not likely to create a public relations problem for the Extension Service or for the university.
  4. The consulting work is not something that is performed on a regular, ongoing basis.
  5. It is encouraged that time spent on consulting activities be done on the employee’s own personal time (i.e. after business hours, vacation or other approved leave time).
  6. While consulting or soliciting consulting work, the staff member shall not identify himself/herself as representing the Extension Service or the university, the impression shall not be given that the Extension Service endorses or approves of the activity, and the official Extension stationery or the official university address shall not be used for correspondence relating to consulting activities.

 

B. Ownership or Operation of a Farm or Other Business

An Extension employee may be involved in the ownership or operation of a farm or other outside business that is related to the employee’s job responsibility or expertise providing that:

  1. The program leader, district director or immediate supervisor is notified of the ownership of outside farming or business operations using the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement. Ownership or operation disclosures include those interests held by the employee’s spouse. Ownership of investment land that is not farmed by you is excluded from reporting. This disclosure must be updated if a substantial change in ownership interests or operations occurs.
  2. The outside ownership is not likely to be construed as a conflict of interest.
  3. The outside ownership and/or operation is not likely to create a public relations problem for the Extension Service or for the university.
  4. All time spent on the farming or business operation is done on the employee’s own personal time (i.e. after business hours, vacation or other approved leave time).
  5. The operation of the business does not constitute an unfair competitive advantage to other businesses because of special knowledge available due to the employee’s Extension job responsibilities or expertise.

 

C. Trading in Agricultural or Other Commodities

An Extension employee may trade in agricultural or other commodities providing that:

  1. The Extension director and his/her designee is notified using the Conflict of Interest Notification Statement about the trading of agricultural or other commodities if such transactions could create an actual or perceived conflict with an employee’s job responsibilities or expertise.
  2. The outside trading of agricultural or other commodities is not likely to be construed as a conflict of interest.
  3. The outside trading of agricultural or other commodities is not likely to create a public relations problem for the Extension Service or for the university.
  4. All time spent in trading agricultural or other commodities is done on the employee’s own personal time (i.e. after business hours, vacation or other approved leave time).
  5. The trading of agricultural or other commodities does not constitute an unfair competitive advantage over other persons or businesses because of special knowledge available because of the employee’s Extension job responsibilities or expertise.

 

D. Holding Elected or Appointed Public Office

In the event that an Extension employee is considering candidacy in a partisan or non-partisan election, advance written notification to the Extension director and his/her designee is required using the Conflict of Interest Notification Statement.

Partisan Politics: Extension employees are strongly discouraged from being a candidate for public office in a partisan election.

Non-Partisan Politics: An Extension employee may be a candidate for or be appointed to a non-partisan public office providing that the holding of that public office is not likely to create a public relations problem for the Extension Service or for the university.

Service in public office is permitted providing that:

  1. All time spent on the duties associated with the public office is done on the employee’s own personal time (i.e. after business hours, vacation or other approved leave time).
  2. All time, facilities and resources required to conduct an election campaign are separate and apart from the Extension Service.

 

E. Providing Expert Witness Testimony in Courts, Etc.

Extension employees are often asked to serve as expert witnesses (testimony or legal service for pay) in a court of law because of their expertise and position. Because expert testimony usually benefits one party and is detrimental to the other, the testimony places the Extension employee in an unintentional adversary position. Therefore, the NDSU Extension Service does not allow Extension employees to serve as an expert witness in North Dakota unless subpoenaed.

  1. NDSU Extension employees are allowed to appear as “juris amici” (friend of the court) instead of as expert witnesses representing one party, and are encouraged to avoid any testimony that might conflict with the employee’s job responsibilities.
  2. Extension employees may serve as an expert witness out-of-state. All rules pertaining to consulting for pay and conflict of interest shall apply. In particular, Extension employees must complete a Consulting Authorization Request form and receive administrative approval prior to out-of-state expert witness testimony.

 

F. Public and Professional Services

  1. University employees are encouraged to provide public service by making presentations to or providing other services that are sponsored by public or nonprofit groups and organizations or serving on proposal review committees. Often the employee may be given an honorarium in appreciation of such service.
  2. An honorarium is defined as a monetary gift that is meant to express appreciation or honor to the recipient, which is not covered under the consulting policies.
  3. Employees can accept honoraria from non-NDSU or non-state (North Dakota) related educational, professional society or nonprofit entities. Unless the consulting policy applies, employees shall regard the services for other departments within the university or for other in-state agencies or entities for which they might receive honoraria as part of their public service obligation and refuse or return such honoraria. An honorarium of any amount that is provided from a for-profit, private entity shall be treated as consulting for pay. If the honorarium from a for-profit, private entity is deposited into a NDSU or county project account, a Consulting Authorization Request form is not required.
  4. Extension-related judging activities for pay are a permitted professional service, but must occur on the employee’s personal time. If the activity is conducted during hours of employment, the payment or honoraria shall be deposited into an NDSU or county project account.
  5. Teaching for pay at an educational institution is a permitted professional service. If the employee has a 100% Extension appointment, the employee must use personal time to teach (i.e. class preparation, travel, etc.). The employee shall submit a Consulting Authorization Request form for notification.
  6. Public service on professional society or governmental boards or committees is encouraged as an Extension employee’s role. Notification is not required.
  7. Public service on state, regional or national nonprofit boards (i.e. commodity boards, association boards, etc.) is encouraged when the employee is fulfilling an authorized NDSU Extension Service partnering or educational role. The Extension employee shall notify the Extension director and his/her designee using the Conflict of Interest Notification Statement for the Extension employee to serve in either voting or non-voting roles.
  8. If an Extension employee is elected or appointed as a private citizen to a board, all time spent on board activities will be done on the employee’s own personal time (i.e. after business hours, vacation or other approved leave time). The employee shall provide written notification to the Extension director and his/her designee using the Conflict of Interest Notification Statement of their role if the board service is related to their position responsibilities or expertise.
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