Resource Administration

NC Ethics Law - Guidelines for Compliance

 

A complex new state ethics law (H.B. 1843) went into effect January 1, 2007, that significantly changes how Duke faculty and staff may interact with “covered persons” in all branches of North Carolina state government.  In addition, the law establishes a requirement for reporting a variety of expenditures related to covered persons that have not been reported in the past. 

In this document, “Duke” refers to Duke University and all components of Duke Medicine and Duke University Health System.  It is important for all Duke employees to be aware of and comply with these new requirements.  The following guidelines are provided in an attempt to answer your questions about the most typical Duke interactions with state officials.

These guidelines are based on an informed interpretation of the law by the DUHS Office of Government Relations; however, they should not be considered comprehensive or legally binding.  The State of North Carolina is still in the process of issuing interpretations of the ethics law, recent amendments, and rules for compliance.  As new rules are issued, they will be made available to the Duke community.  For detailed information, see the websites listed at the end of these guidelines.

Who is considered a “covered person” under the law?

  • Legislators (members of the North Carolina General Assembly)
  • Legislative employees

And “public servants” such as

  • Senior state government officials, such as governor, lieutenant governor, Council of State, and senior employees in these offices
  • Secretaries of state agencies, division directors and senior administrative staff
  • Judges and judicial employees
  • Voting members of state boards
  • Senior officers of the UNC System and Board of Governors
  • Senior officers of all UNC system institutions, such as president, vice president, chancellor, Board of Trustees
  • Senior officers of the Community College System and system institutions

County and city officials are not considered covered persons under the state ethics law unless they have also been appointed to certain state-level boards and commissions.  Members of Congress and other federal officials are covered by a different set of ethics rules.

What Duke interactions and activities are affected?


Invitation to attend football games, basketball games, and associated entertainment (lunches, dinners, etc.)

  • Invitation must state the total fair market value (face value of the ticket, plus entertainment and VIP parking) and require the invitee to pay same

Invitation to participate in a ribbon cutting, building dedication, opening of a new facility

  • Acceptable, if the event is structured as a “public event” (see definition below)
  • Refreshments are acceptable, if offered to all participants for immediate consumption

One-on-one, individual meeting with a covered person

  • Acceptable, if discussion is related to duties of the state official and the Duke employee is not acting as a lobbyist
  • No food or beverages may be offered

Small group meeting with one or more covered persons

  • Acceptable, if structured as a “public event” (see definition below)
  • At least 10 people associated with Duke must attend
  • An agenda must be sent to all attendees at least 10 days in advance

Campus or facility tour

•    Acceptable, if structured as a “public event” (see definition below)

Food and beverages

  • Acceptable, if offered to everyone for immediate consumption in connection with a “public event” (see definition below)

Gifts (sweatshirt, autographed football, book, bathrobe, event ticket, parking, other item of any monetary value)

  • Not acceptable, no matter how inexpensive

Plaque, certificate or similar non-monetary memento recognizing individual services

  • Acceptable

Informational materials (brochure, departmental newsletter, for example)

  • Acceptable, if relevant to the duties of the state official

Reimbursement for expenses related to a covered person’s participation in an educational forum, seminar, conference, panel presentation

  • Acceptable, but here are the rules:
    • Event must have a formal agenda, distributed at least 10 days in advance
    • Event must be educational and participation related primarily to the public duties of the state official
    • At least 10 people not related to the state official must attend
    • Entertainment is acceptable, if incidental to the event
    • Only “reasonable actual expenditures” may be reimbursed (food, beverages, registration, travel, lodging, and incidental items of nominal value)
    • Duke (the institution) must pay the expenses
    • An honorarium is not acceptable

Special services for a covered person who seeks medical care at Duke

  • No special services that have any monetary value, such as complementary valet parking, flowers, or gifts of any kind, are acceptable

What is considered a “public event”?

The new law provides two definitions for a public event, one for “legislators and legislative employees,” and one for “public servants.”  In order for the state official to accept your invitation, your event, activity or meeting must meet the requirements for a public event as defined below.  In extending your invitation, you might want to include a statement such as:

“This event is in compliance with our understanding of the requirements and restrictions of N.C.G.S. 138A-32(e).”

In all cases,

  • The event/meeting must have a formal agenda and
  • The invitation, including the agenda, must be sent at least 10 days in advance

1. For Legislators and Legislative Employees, a public event must be:

Open to the general public
All legislators or legislative employees are invited
OR
Not open to the general public
The entire membership of a constituent group (e.g., all members of the House, the Senate, a committee, a county delegation, etc.) are invited
At least 10 individuals associated with Duke do attend
OR
Not open to the general public. The entire membership of a constituent group (e.g., all members of the House, the Senate, a committee, a county delegation, etc.) are invited. All Duke employees and governing board members are invited to attend

2. For Public Servants, a public event must be:

Open to the general public
At least 10 public servants are invited
OR
Not open to the general public
At least 10 public servants are invited
At least 10 individuals do attend (excluding the invited public servant and family)
OR
Not open to the general public
At least 10 public servants are invited
All Duke employees and governing board members located in the county of the event site are invited

What expenses must I report…and to whom?

 

The names of covered persons and associated expenses must be itemized in monthly reports filed by Duke University with the North Carolina Department of State.  Expenditures must be reported in the same month that the event takes place.  For example, you must report:

  • The per-person cost of food and beverages served at a “public event” (as defined above) that is held at Duke or sponsored by Duke and is attended by one or more covered persons
  • All expenses related to a covered person’s participation in an educational forum, seminar, conference, panel presentation or similar event held at Duke or sponsored by Duke

Please call or e-mail the Office of Government Relations to give advance notice of your meeting/event involving possible covered persons.  Immediately following your event, send your event agenda along with the reportable expenses to:

Julie D. Gay
Administrative Director
DUHS Office of Government Relations
DUMC Box 3524
Or by e-mail to gay00002@mc.duke.edu

 

Where can I go for further information?

http://www.ethicscommission.nc.gov/coverage/default.aspx