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Advisory Council on Ethics (ACE)

Advisory Council on Ethics Informal Request

March 16, 2001

ACE recently received several questions. We would like to address them at this time. We have chosen to issue a reply based on TDCJ policies instead of issuing an Opinion.

The first two questions are: 1) Is it unethical or a violation of TDCJ policies for a Warden to use state equipment for personal use? 2) Is sending a Christmas card in an official TDCJ manila envelope a misuse of TDCJ property?

PD-22 (General Rules of Conduct and Disciplinary Action Guidelines for Employees) Attachment A deals with the issues presented by these two questions. Provision 29 (Damage, Destruction, Misappropriation, or Unauthorized Use of Agency Equipment or Property) states, "Employees are prohibited from taking or using any Agency resources, including the use of offender labor, to further their private interest. Employees shall not take or use any item of state property for the purpose of converting it to their personal use. Employees shall not use state equipment for any purpose other than official work purposes, except as provided in ED-02.01 (TDCJ Ethics Policy)." Summarizing this position provides a clear answer to these two questions. If the Warden or any State Employee, uses Agency resources for their own personal use, or if they take or use state equipment for any purpose other than official work purposes, it is clearly a violation of PD-22.

The next two questions is: 1) Is it misuse of state property to send Christmas greetings through the TDCJ e-mail system? 2) If it is allowed for Directors and Supervisors, does that mean that people in staff positions could also send Christmas wishes through the e-mail system without facing reprimand for misuse of state property?

ED-02.01 (TDCJ Ethics Policy) states, "An employee may use state-provided Internet access; however, the amount of time "on-line" shall be restricted to incidental use as provided in Section IV. A. of this Directive or limits set by a Supervisor." Therefore, according to policy, if the e-mail is from a TDCJ employee and is sent system-wide, it is not a violation of policy as long as the time spent "on-line" to send it falls within the time restraints defined as "incidental use." However, it is important to note that the policy states that usage is restricted to limits set by a supervisor. If your Supervisor says you cannot send e-mails using state-provided Internet access, ACE will not overrule their decision.