Personal Use of UO Accounts
Your unit just signed up for an Amazon Prime business account through PCS. You need to order some shoes for your daughter’s dance class, and you need them fast because the class starts in two days! You log in to your department’s Amazon business account and order the shoes, but pay for the order using your personal credit card.
Is this a problem? Yes. This can violate state ethics laws (use of official position), because you have avoided the personal cost of buying an Amazon Prime membership (which is required for expedited shipping), thereby receiving personal gain because of your UO position. But for your position as a UO employee, you would not have been able to use the benefits from your unit's Amazon Prime business account. Without advance written permission, this is prohibited.
Purchasing UO Property for Personal Use
You work at the Rec Center. The UO is purchasing cardio equipment at a discounted rate. You want to add one treadmill to the order for your use at home. You will use your personal funds to pay for the extra treadmill and you will be responsible for getting the treadmill from the delivery site at UO to your house.
Is this a problem? Yes. This would be the unauthorized use of official position for personal gain. But for your position as a UO employee, you would not have saved money on that treadmill.
This could also be a conflict of interest, if you are the one making the decisions about the treadmill order on behalf of the university.
You use a UO laptop for work. The laptop works fine, but it is 4 years old, and the department is planning on replacing it. Rather than send the laptop to e-waste, you offer to buy the laptop from the department for $100 because your son’s laptop just died, and he needs a new one.
Is this a problem? It is. This would be the unauthorized use of official position for personal gain. But for your position as a UO employee, you would not have saved money on that laptop. Typically departments cannot sell or give University property to University employees.
Borrowing UO Property
Let’s say you have a second job unrelated to your UO position playing the bagpipes. Instead of buying a set of pipes, you borrow one from the university on weekends, when no one else needs it.
Is this a problem? Yes. This can violate state ethics laws (use of official position), because you have avoided the personal cost of buying bagpipes, thereby receiving personal gain because of your UO position. Without permission, this is prohibited. But for your position as a UO employee, you would not have avoided the expense of buying or renting those bagpipes.
Purchasing UO Property for UO Use
You work in UO PE & Rec but you also run your own sports equipment business. Your department at UO needs to buy new equipment just like the products sold by your business. Because of your side business, you know you can give the university a good deal. You contract with your sports equipment business to purchase the new equipment for UO.
Is this a problem? Yep. You cannot choose to use UO funds to buy your company’s equipment for the PE & Rec department because it presents a conflict of interest, and could violate the use of official position.
If your business does not present the best deal for UO, then but for your position at UO and responsibility to buy gym equipment, the UO would not have purchased equipment from your business. If your business does offer the best value for UO, UO may still work with your business. But before that happens, you must disclose your side business to a supervisor, in writing, and someone else should make the decision about whether and where to buy the new equipment.
Consider this twist: You work in UO PE & Rec and your brother runs a sports equipment business. Your department at UO needs to buy new equipment just like the products sold by your brother’s business. Your brother’s business offers the best deal, but you and your brother have been arguing. You decide to purchase equipment for the UO from Company X, not because they offer the best value, but because you want to spite your brother. This is a situation in which your relative receives a private financial impact from a decision you made as a UO employee. This is prohibited, even though it presents a financial detriment, rather than financial gain, to you or your relative.
Vendor Perks for Personal Use
You are an office manager buying some new office equipment. After narrowing the selection to two vendors with similar products and pricing, you learn that one of the vendors offers a free desktop scanner for bulk purchases. Feeling inspired by the prospect of a free scanner, you focus your efforts on that company and end up negotiating a large discount. Given the discount you negotiated and the fact that the office already has all of the scanners it needs, you feel justified in accepting the scanner for your home office.
Is this a problem? Yes. You should not accept the free desktop scanner for your home office because it would be considered a prohibited gift. State law and UO policy prohibit the acceptance of a gift greater than $50 from sources with an administrative interest in UO decisions (ORS 244.025). In this case, the interest related to the decision about which vendor to use for office equipment. This situation also presents a conflict of interest to the extent that you are taking action in your capacity as a UO employee (helping select the vendor) that would have a private financial impact on you.
This could also violate state ethics laws (use of official position). Because you avoided the personal cost of buying a scanner for your home office, you received personal gain on account of your UO position. But for your position as a UO employee responsible for purchasing office equipment for your department, you would not have received a free scanner. You can still accept the free scanner, but you would need to give it to the university, rather than take it home.
The Oregon Legislative Assembly got an enterprise-wide license for software from Microsoft. The Assembly considered allowing legislative employees to install the software on their personal devices for personal use.
Is this a problem? Yes. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission considered the proposal and said that the use of official position rule prohibits this benefit. The Commission noted that access to the software “would allow legislators and their staff to avoid a personal expense through the installation of state-owned and licensed Microsoft Office software on personal computers and devices owned by legislators and their staff and used for private purposes.” The Commission then noted “As the opportunity to avoid the cost of buying Microsoft Office software licenses for their own personal computers and devices is available to legislators and their staff only because they are public officials, the avoidance of the personal expense would be considered a prohibited use of office under ORS 244.040(1).” The Commission did not consider whether any exceptions may apply, such as including the licenses as part of employees’ compensation and benefits package.
At UO, employees are allowed to install select software on personal devices. For more information, visit UO's Office 365 FAQ.