Sunday, August 26, 2012

When Does a Side Job Become a Conflict with a Government Job?

Many public agencies have a code of ethics governing actions by its employees to prevent conflicts of interest (or the appearance of conflicts of interest) in carrying out official duties - including what side jobs an employee may take.  

Tay Yoshitani
Seattle Port chief criticized:  The head of the Port of Seattle, Tay Yoshitani, was recently criticized for accepting a position on the board of directors of Expeditors, a logistics company that helps customers organize cargo shipments worldwide.  In his new side job, Yoshitani would be paid $30,000 plus $1,000 per day for meetings and work he does for the company.  He is paid $367,000 a year as the port's CEO.  A letter from a group of state legislators to the Port Commission complained that:
It appears to the public that Mr. Yoshitani may directly and personally benefit by giving Expeditors' customers a competitive advantage over other Port of Seattle customers."
The Port's ethics policy:  The Port of Seattle's "Employee Ethics and Conflict of Interest" policy addresses the side job Mr. Yoshitani has taken and would suggest that the job is in conflict with, or appears to be in conflict with, his official duties.  The Port's policy states the following:
Port of Seattle employees are expected to serve the Port with the highest standards of ethical conduct and to avoid situations that create a real or perceived "conflict of interest."  A "conflict of interest" exists when an employee's duty to give undivided loyalty to the Port is influenced, or could be influenced, by personal interest.  The fact of a conflict of interest is not in itself a violation of the policy.  Instead, it is something that should be reported so the Port may ensure that decisions are not made that could be influenced by the conflict of interest, or perceived to have been influenced by it.  Port employees must ensure that any outside activity or personal interest is kept separate from their position at the Port and does not influence their business judgment on the Port's behalf.  Port employees need to use common sense and keep the interests of the Port paramount at all times.  In addition to avoiding actual conflicts of interest, Port employees should avoid situations that could appear to be a conflict of interest.
More Information:  Visit the following links for additional information about Mr. Yoshitani's additional board director position:
Ethics training:  Last week, on August 22, 2012, I conducted a workshop at the 2012 Annual Forum of NIGP (National Institute of Governmental Purchasing) in downtown Seattle.  My topic was "Avoiding the Front Page of the Newspaper:  Why Ethics in Public Contracting Matters." 

Here's an outline of the training I provided:
  • Why Should We Talk About Ethics?
  • Why Do We Have Public Contracting?
  • What Are Appearances Important?
  • 5 Keys to Making Ethical Decisions
  • 5 Areas of Ethical Risk
  • 7 Risks of Ethical Lapses
  • 7 Strategies to Manage Ethical Issues
  • What Ethics Regulations Apply?
Given the recent controversy at the Port of Seattle and at other public agencies throughout the country, it's clear that regular ethics awareness training is very important.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2012 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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