Conflicts of Interest & Ethics

The Georgia General Assembly adopted statutory provisions governing conflicts of interest for employees of the State of Georgia. As state employees, all faculty, staff, and student employees of Georgia Tech are bound by the State of Georgia Code of Ethics for Government Employees found in O.C.G.A. Section 45-10-1 (the "Code"). Employees should avoid situations in which there is or may be a conflict between the employee's private interests and public duties. The Georgia Attorney General has defined "conflict of interest" as the "principle that a public official or employee must not place himself in a position where his private and personal interest (as distinguished from a general citizenship interest) might prevent or appear to prevent him from exercising his official judgment, discretion, powers or duties in an unbiased manner. The obligation is founded on the right of the People (whom he serves) to have his best judgment and actions from the viewpoint of what is best for the general public, and to have it without fear that the decision, judgment or action has been influenced by considerations of his personal profit." (Position Paper of the Georgia Attorney General, "Conflicts of Interest of Public Officers, Employees and Agents", 1976).

The Code divides state officials and employees into different categories depending on their respective powers [i.e., statewide powers or limited powers, O.C.G.A. Section 45-10-22(a)]. State employees with statewide powers may not transact business with any agency; state employees with limited powers are prohibited from doing business with the agency for which the employee serves. The prohibition applies to businesses in which the state employee or his/her family has a substantial interest. (Georgia Tech employees generally fall under the category employees with limited power.)

The Code covers both full time and part-time employees, but a part-time employee is prohibited from doing business only with the particular agency by which he or she is employed.

The term "family" means spouse and dependents, and the term "substantial interest" is defined as "the direct or indirect ownership of more than 25% of the assets or stock of any business." One relevant exception from these restrictions is the exception for full-time employees of the Board of Regents who serve as members of the governing bodies of private, non-profit athletic or educational foundations that support the colleges and universities.

Each state employee who has transactions with the state or any state agency must file an annual report with the Secretary of State detailing all transactions which exceed $250.00 individually, or which in the aggregate exceed $9,000.00 for a calendar year. (O.C.G.A. sec. 45-10-26.)

The creation of faculty start-up companies has increased the likelihood of conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest may occur when a faculty member creates intellectual property covered by Georgia Tech's Intellectual Property Policy, then desires to enter into a business relationship with GTRC concerning the faculty member's exploitation of GTRC intellectual property via a faculty start up. This type of conflict can be managed, provided the faculty member has the approval of his or her Chair/Director and enters into an agreement with GTRC to manage the conflict. Faculty wishing to start a company with intellectual property covered by Georgia Tech's Intellectual Property Policy should contact GTRC prior to the creation of any such company.

Representatives from corporations and government entities often approach Institute personnel with requests to participate in case studies, news releases, video interviews, company newsletters and online websites featuring products and/or services tested by the Institute.  Please see Institute Guidelines for information concerning participation that is permitted, as well as prohibited.

Resources:

State Business Transactions Disclosure Reports Memo - January 5, 2017

Political Activity Guidance Memo - December 1, 2016

Paramour Favoritism in the College Workplace (NACUANOTES:  Vol. 10, No. 10 - May 30, 2012)

Business Vs. "Nobody's Business":  Searches of Employer-Issued Technology and the University Employee's Expectation of Privacy (NACUANOTES:  Vol. 10, No. 9 - May 23, 2012)

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (NACUANOTES:  Vol. 10, No. 8 - May 15, 2012)