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Advisory Council on Ethics (ACE)

Advisory Council on Ethics Opinion No. 10

December 1, 1998

The Advisory Council on Ethics received a question regarding a TDCJ employee who, while on state time, engaged in charitable activity on behalf of another TDCJ employee who was ill and hospitalized. The writer questioned whether it was appropriate for a significant amount of state time, as well as state supplies and equipment, to be used in this way.

According to PD-21, Employee General Rules of Conduct, provision #29, "Employees are prohibited from using any Agency resources, including inmate labor to further their private interest. Employees shall not use state equipment for any purpose other than official work purposes." Provision #37 states, "Employees are prohibited from engaging in any activity that would have an adverse impact upon the integrity of productivity of the employee or the Agency. This would include, but is not limited to, establishing a non-productive work pattern." (Emphasis added to quotations throughout this opinion.)

According to ED 02.01, TDCJ Ethics Policy, and ED 02.04, TDCJ Fund-Raising:

Use and misuse of State Property and State Time…. "[I]t is not a "misuse" of State resources, when agency policy allows the activity and the personal use of State property or time:

  1. Does not result in direct cost to the State or the agency;
  2. Does not impede agency functions;
  3. Is not attributable to private commercial purposes; and
  4. Is limited to only incidental amounts of employee time, i.e., time periods comparable to a reasonable coffee break during the day.

Fundraising as discussed in ED-02.04 includes emergency assistance to employees of the TDCJ, as raised in the opinion request. Such activity, where only an incidental amount of personal time is allowed, is distinct from State Employees Charitable Contribution or "agency purpose" fundraising (as defined in ED-02.04), where more time can be spent on the activity. In the area of non-SECC, non-Agency purpose fundraising, ED-02.04 continues:

Employees are not entitled to additional incidental time in order to accomplish both fund raising and personal business; it is a trade-off at the discretion of the employee and subject to reasonable constraints imposed by the employee's supervisor.

In the situation raised by the opinion request, involving a significant amount of state time, there would be a clear violation of the guidelines in Agency policy. TDCJ employees must keep in mind that they are representatives of the Agency and the State of Texas and are expected to adhere to the highest standards of conduct while on and off duty. If an employee spent an excessive amount of time on this activity in behalf of another employee, then while the employee's intentions may have been honorable, the activity violates agency policy and is an inappropriate use of state time. In addition, the employee's supervisor in this situation should have understood the constraints of TDCJ policy and ensured that this activity did not go beyond the reasonable guidelines of what is allowable.