Section 7. Ethics: University Employee Misconduct Policy and Procedures
Issued: January 2015
Replaces: June 2012
7.1 General Statement
As state employees, we have a duty to conduct ourselves in a manner that will maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of Southern Illinois University. Furthermore, we are obligated to follow state law, which includes the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act (5 ILCS 430). As stewards of the University’s resources and property, we must make ethical decisions and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
The University does not condone and will not tolerate fraudulent, illegal or improper business practices, or practices of questionable ethics or conflict of interest in the conduct of University business. Any employee, regardless of position or length of service, found responsible for such actions shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
7.2 Management Responsibilities
Management is responsible for being aware of exposures and symptoms of exposures in their areas of responsibility, and for detecting wrongdoing and fraudulent activities. Each Unit Head, Dean, Director, and Department Head shall be alerted for any indication that improprieties might exist and work to prevent or detect such improprieties.
7.3 Employee Responsibilities
All University employees have an obligation to safeguard the property and assets of the State and help to maintain the high standards of professional conduct we expect from all University employees. If you know of any violation of Illinois law or the Ethics Act, you must report it to the appropriate authorities. All employees are required to participate in ethics training on an annual basis.
7.4 Procedures for Filing an Ethics Complaint
University employees are responsible for reporting any suspected wrongdoing or fraudulent activity. Reports may be made directly to the University Ethics Office or to the Office of Executive Inspector General.
Complaints regarding allegations of State employee misconduct, fraud, waste, etc., can be made to the University Ethics Office or to the Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor by anyone. However, the complaint must relate to the official conduct of a State employee of a State agency, board, commission, or State public university under the jurisdiction of the OEIG, or a person or entity (such as a vendor of the State) doing business with an employee or State agency under the jurisdiction of the OEIG.
Anyone who files a complaint should have a reasonable belief that the allegation being reported is true. In addition, anyone filing a complaint must provide sufficient detail concerning the allegation in order for an investigation to be initiated.
Examples of allegations of violations by State employees that may be investigated by the OEIG include (but are not limited to): fraud, abuse of authority, corruption, theft of State property, improper use of State time, property, or other resources for prohibited political purposes, bid rigging, improper time reporting, and other forms of misuse of State property, equipment, or other assets.
The OEIG will not investigate complaints that are unrelated to its jurisdiction, such as those generally related to: city, municipal, county or federal government employees and officials or federal or State court judges and legislators. The OEIG may also decline to investigate complaints that are more appropriately dealt with as a State agency management issue, such as a complaint from a State employee who is simply dissatisfied, without legal recourse, with a supervisor, work assignment, or performance rating.
By law, the OEIG cannot initiate or accept a complaint regarding an alleged violation, which occurred more than a year ago, unless there was an attempt to conceal the underlying facts during that time. Effective with amendment to the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act in August 2009, the OEIG may accept anonymous complaints and may initiate investigations of its own initiative.
Contact information for filing a complaint with the OEIG can be found by visiting the website for the Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor. Details for filing a complaint with the University Ethics Officer can be found by visiting the Ethics Office website within the Southern Illinois University System’s website.
7.5 Duty to Cooperate with Investigation
All affected offices and/or employees have the responsibility to cooperate fully and provide assistance to the OEIG in the performance of any investigation. Employees should feel free to report misconduct and participate in investigations without fear of retribution. Any officer, employee, or appointee who violates this provision shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including discharge. All University resources are open to inspection including equipment, books, records, or papers in the possession of the University.
If an investigation finds sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, the University has the responsibility to take action towards the offending employee(s) and to notify appropriate law enforcement authorities if necessary.
Under state law, knowingly providing false information to the OEIG by any officer or employee shall be cause for discipline, up to and including discharge. Caution should be exercised when dealing with suspected misconduct or fraudulent activities to avoid: making incorrect accusations; prematurely alerting suspected individuals of an investigation in progress; violating the employee’s right to due process; and making statements that could lead to claims of false accusation or other offenses.
7.6 Whistle Blower Protection
A whistleblower is someone who exposes wrongdoing, fraud, corruption and/or waste. The Illinois Whistleblower Act protects every citizen -- including state and local government employees -- when they blow the whistle on government corruption.
Your identity as a whistleblower is kept confidential, except in rare circumstances where disclosure is required by law.
If you are a State employee and you perform the following protected activity . . . .
- Disclose or threaten to disclose to your supervisor or any public body something you believe is illegal, or
- Provide information to any public body conducting an investigation into corruption, or
- Participate in a proceeding to enforce the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act.
A State agency cannot retaliate through a reprimand, discharge, suspension, demotion or denial of promotion or transfer.
However, adverse action (such as disciplinary action) by a State agency is not a violation of the Whistle Blower Protection Article if it is demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that the officer, member, other State employee, or State agency would have taken the same unfavorable personnel action in the absence of the performance of the protected activity.
If retaliation occurs, remedies can include:
- Two times back pay;
- Interest on back pay; and/or
- Payment of reasonable costs and attorneys' fees.
Tips for successful whistleblowers
- Successful whistleblowers need evidence. Be sure to keep records and documentation of corrupt activity.
- Don't break any laws yourself. Exposing corruption will not necessarily relieve you of liability. If you are worried about your behavior, seek independent legal advice.
- Read your employment contract. Your union or other employment contract may contain whistleblower protections.
Randy J. Dunn, President Date