Alabama Ethics Act

The Alabama Ethics Act includes guidelines applicable to public officials and public employees of the State of Alabama, mostly related to avoiding conflicts of interest and use of public property for private gain. University of South Alabama employees fall under the definition of public employees of the State of Alabama, thus must abide by this Act. The Alabama State Legislature may periodically amend the Act with new laws.

▼   History / Alabama Ethics Commission

The Alabama Ethics Commission was created by the Alabama Legislature in 1973 by Act No. 1056. The mission of this Commission is to ensure that public officials are independent and impartial; that decisions and policies are made in the proper governmental channels; that public office is not used for private gain; and, most importantly, that there is public confidence in the integrity of government (from the Alabama Ethics Commission web page).

The Alabama Ethics Commission has jurisdiction over the Alabama Ethics Act and the Fair Campaign Practices Act, managed through their Advisory Opinions and enforcement processes. The Commission is also responsible for collecting Statements of Economic Interest (SEI) forms, lobbyist and principal disclosure forms, and many other documents from public officials and public employees in Alabama; they also assure public officials and designated public employees complete assigned ethics training.

▼   How Does the Alabama Ethics Act Apply to Me?

USA faculty and staff should be aware of the Alabama Ethics Act (the “Ethics Act”), which sets forth guidelines we must abide by as “public employees" (as defined in the Ethics Act). Components of the Ethics Act are covered in various policies in our Faculty Handbook, Staff Employee Handbook, and University Policy Library, but the following are some of the key guidelines from the Act which impact us (or if you prefer, the Ethics Act in its entirely can be found here).

Filing of Statement of Economic Interests (SEI):

Certain public employees who meet Ethics Act criteria must complete and file a Statement of Economic Interests each year. USA's H.R. Department endeavors to alert subject employees of this requirement prior to the annual deadline of April 30, but it remains individual employees' responsibility to timely file.

Ethics Act Training

Public employees required to file the Statement of Economic Interests must complete an online Ethics Law training with 90 days of their date of hire.

Use of Official Position or Office for Personal Gain:

No public employee shall use or cause to be used his or her official position to obtain personal gain for himself or herself, or a family member of the public employee, or any business with which the person is associated, unless the use and gain are otherwise specifically authorized by law. Personal gain is achieved when the public employee, or a family member thereof, receives, obtains, exerts control over, or otherwise converts to personal use the object constituting such personal gain. This provision includes use of University equipment, facilities, time, materials, human labor, or other public property under an employee’s discretion or control. No public employee shall solicit a thing of value from a subordinate whom he or she directly supervises or a person or business whom he or she inspects, regulates, or supervises. USA’s Staff Employee Handbook (State Ethics Law & Gifts) reinforces this component.

Offering, Soliciting, or Receiving Anything for Purpose of Influencing Official Action:

Public employees (and family members) shall not solicit or receive anything from any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action, regardless of whether or not the thing solicited or received is a thing of value. In addition, no public employee or group of public employees shall solicit any lobbyist to give any thing, whether or not the thing solicited is a thing of value, to any person or entity for any purpose other than a campaign contribution. USA’s Staff Employee Handbook (State Ethics Law & Gifts) reinforces this component.

Confidential Information:

No public employee or former public employee, for a period consistent with the statute of limitations found in the applicable Alabama statute, shall use or disclose confidential information gained in the course of or by reason of his or her position or employment in any way that could result in financial gain other than his or her regular salary as a public employee for himself or herself, a family member of the public employee, or for any other person or business.

Representation of Client or Constituent Before Board or Department:

If a public employee, or family member of the public employee, or a business with which the person is associated, represents a client or constituent for a fee before any quasi-judicial board or commission, regulatory body, or executive department or agency, notice of the representation shall be given to the Ethics Commission within 10 days after the first day of the appearance.

Public Contracts:

Unless exempt pursuant to Alabama competitive bid laws or otherwise permitted by law, no public employee, or a member of the household of the public employee, and no business with which the person is associated shall enter into any contract to provide goods or services which is to be paid in whole or in part out of state, county, or municipal funds unless the contract has been awarded through a process of competitive bidding and a copy of the contract is filed with the Ethics Commission. More details can be found in USA’s Purchasing policy.

Prohibition on Discrimination Against Employee Filing Complaint:

A supervisor shall not take disciplinary action against an employee in response to a good faith report by the employee of a violation of the Ethics Act. USA also has a general Non Retaliation policy which provides details related to reporting violations of all types.

▼   Violations / Enforcement
A violation of the Ethics Act would also be a violation of University of South Alabama policy, and would result in disciplinary action by the University of South Alabama, and potentially by the Alabama Ethics Commission. See the Alabama Ethics Commission web page (FAQ - "How are violations of the Ethics Act punished?") for further details.