Ingrid's Interests

Ingrid is a budget officer in the School of Engineering. She would like to serve on a committee that will select a company to provide consulting services to the School of Engineering. Ingrid’s husband works for one of the companies bidding on the work. However, he won't be working on the proposal, and if his company wins the bid, he wouldn't be part of the consulting job.

Which of the following statements are true?

A. Ingrid's participation in a decision that involves her husband’s company violates University policy and state law.
B. Because Ingrid’s husband’s company could benefit as a result of the decision, Ingrid’s interests could be compromised in a number of ways.
C. Even if the bidding process means that the lowest bidder gets the consulting job, Ingrid's involvement in the decision could be regarded as unfair by the participants, creating the  appearance of a conflict of interest.
D. All of the above


The best answer is D.


The following Standards of Ethical Conduct apply:

1. Fair Dealing

5. Compliance with Applicable University Policies, Procedures and Other Forms of Guidance

6. Conflicts of Interest or Commitment

Even though the process requires selection of the lowest bid, and Ingrid’s husband will not personally gain if his company were selected, Ingrid has a financial interest in the University’s decision to select a consulting vendor and may not participate in any way in the decision. While she receives no direct income from her husband’s company, Ingrid’s community property interest in her husband’s salary is enough to constitute a conflict. She would also have a conflict of interest if the other individual in this scenario were a registered domestic partner, rather than her husband.

As long as Ingrid has an interest in the decision, she has a conflict of interest and may not participate. Even if the result of the process is that the lowest bidder gets the contract, Ingrid could be liable for civil and criminal penalties, because she would have violated the conflict of interest provisions of the Political Reform Act, which applies to all University employees.

Additional Reading:

Public Officials’Obligations Under Political Reform Act (265k PDF)

UC Policy on Conflict of Interest (177k PDF)