Interest Disclosure Reporting
Each year in January, university members who are required by the Commonwealth to complete Virginia's Statement of Economic Interest will be notified by our office. The Informal Guide to Completing the State and Local SoEI form is available here.
Additionally, every other year, state filers are required by the Commonwealth to complete a Conflict of Interests Orientation course. The purpose of the training is to ensure that employees required to file the annual Statement gain a greater knowledge of the Conflict of Interests Act, its provisions and prohibitions. This training is required for all employees in a position of trust upon hire and odd years thereafter (e.g., 2017, 2019, etc.).
Please call our office if you need assistance at 828-2028. ICO member, Jaycee Dempsey, is available to you for questions about this process at email@example.com.
The Integrity & Compliance Office (ICO) is the point of contact for VCU’s annual reporting requirements.
Each year, university members determined by VCU to hold a position of trust are required to disclose their interests in VCU's Activity and Interests Reporting System (AIRS). If you are one of these individuals, you will be notified by our office.
For more information on who is designated as being in a position of trust, please see below.
To begin the disclosure process, visit https://airs.research.vcu.edu, log in using your eID and password and follow the instructions on your screen. Please note, that you must first establish a VPN connection if accessing AIRS outside of VCU's network.
Overview of the Disclosure, Analysis and Management Process
VCU's interest disclosure process begins with completing an online questionnaire in the Activity and Interests Reporting System (AIRS), hosted by the Office of Research and Innovation.
The data is saved in AIRS and then reviewed by Audit and Compliance Services for potential conflicts.
Potential conflicts of interest/commitment are analyzed, and sometimes additional information is requested to determine if a management plan is necessary to monitor the conflict.
If a management plan is put in place, then management in the area is responsible for ensuring the plan is being followed. At a minimum, plans should be reviewed for effectiveness by management on an annual basis.
The university’s expectations on disclosure and management of conflicts are outlined in the VCU Code of Conduct on pages 25 through 30.
Those individuals who are in a "Position of Trust" are identified as such based on position within the organization and/or job function/duties.
VCU has determined the following positions within our organization to be a position of trust:
- All Director and Chair level positions up through the Presidential level
- Board of Visitors members
- Optional Retirement Program (ORP) Investment Committee members
- Institutional Review Board (IRB) members
VCU considers individuals with the following job functions, or job duties, to be considered holding a position of trust:
- Athletics staff covered by National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules - All Administrative & Professional Faculty
- Audit and Management Services - All employees
- Buyers and Procurement Professionals - Individuals who are responsible for compliance with state procurement rules
- Capital Outlay Professionals at the Director level and Architect/Engineers
- Contract Administrators – Determined by Procurement Services
- Development Officers
- Police Professionals – Staff Sergeants and above
- Primary Business Officers or Fiscal Administrators permitted to commit the university's resources in purchases and other transactions
- Employees with a personal interest in a contract for Research & Development (e.g., industry partnerships) between VCU and a business – Determined by the Office of Research
For the most current legislation, click here. Also, see SCHEV's COI Act Presentation to Visitors of Virginia Public Universities and Colleges (October 2016) for more information.
No officer or employee of a state or local governmental or advisory agency shall:
1. Solicit or accept money or other thing of value for services performed within the scope of his official duties, except the compensation, expenses or other remuneration paid by the agency of which he is an officer or employee. This prohibition shall not apply to the acceptance of special benefits that may be authorized by law;
2. Offer or accept any money or other thing of value for or in consideration of obtaining employment, appointment, or promotion of any person with any governmental or advisory agency;
3. Offer or accept any money or other thing of value for or in consideration of the use of his public position to obtain a contract for any person or business with any governmental or advisory agency;
4. Use for his own economic benefit or that of another party confidential information that he has acquired by reason of his public position and which is not available to the public;
5. Accept any money, loan, gift, favor, service, or business or professional opportunity that reasonably tends to influence him in the performance of his official duties. This subdivision shall not apply to any political contribution actually used for political campaign or constituent service purposes and reported as required by Chapter 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.) of Title 24.2;
6. Accept any business or professional opportunity when he knows that there is a reasonable likelihood that the opportunity is being afforded him to influence him in the performance of his official duties;
7. Accept any honoraria for any appearance, speech, or article in which the officer or employee provides expertise or opinions related to the performance of his official duties. The term "honoraria" shall not include any payment for or reimbursement to such person for his actual travel, lodging, or subsistence expenses incurred in connection with such appearance, speech, or article or in the alternative a payment of money or anything of value not in excess of the per diem deduction allowable under § 162 of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended from time to time. The prohibition in this subdivision shall apply only to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Governor's Secretaries, and heads of departments of state government;
8. Accept a gift from a person who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance of the officer's or employee's official duties under circumstances where the timing and nature of the gift would cause a reasonable person to question the officer's or employee's impartiality in the matter affecting the donor. Violations of this subdivision shall not be subject to criminal law penalties;
9. Accept gifts from sources on a basis so frequent as to raise an appearance of the use of his public office for private gain. Violations of this subdivision shall not be subject to criminal law penalties; or
10. Use his public position to retaliate or threaten to retaliate against any person for expressing views on matters of public concern or for exercising any right that is otherwise protected by law, provided, however, that this subdivision shall not restrict the authority of any public employer to govern conduct of its employees, and to take disciplinary action, in accordance with applicable law, and provided further that this subdivision shall not limit the authority of a constitutional officer to discipline or discharge an employee with or without cause.
Who has to complete a financial conflict of interest disclosure form?
Individuals who are in a "Position of Trust" must complete the disclosure form. Senior leadership has identified these individuals as such based on position within the organization and/or job function/duties.
Those in a Position of Trust impact decision-making or have influence over purchasing, hiring or decisions involving university funds and resources.
What is a conflict?
VCU’s primary mission is to advance knowledge and student success. While individuals may have other personal interests or loyalties, employees owe their primary professional allegiance to the university and its mission. Some personal interests and commitments could appear to affect an employee’s ability to make unbiased business decisions or detract from their university responsibilities. These situations are commonly known as either a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment.
What is a conflict of commitment?
A conflict of commitment occurs when activities outside of the workplace detract from an individual’s university responsibilities or involve the significant use of university resources that are dedicated to achieving VCU’s mission.
Employees are expected to satisfy all of the requirements of their jobs, and should not permit outside activities to interfere with the performance of their university obligations.
Your immediate supervisor, department head/chair or dean is your initial contact for discussing whether your outside activities pose a conflict of commitment. In order to assure appropriate management of potential conflicts, your immediate supervisor, department head/chair or dean may seek further guidance from the Integrity and Compliance Office.
Does having a conflict violate university policy?
Not necessarily. A conflict of interest is sometimes referred to as a “competing interest” to emphasize that a conflict can exist even if no misconduct results from it. In fact, for most employees, it is virtually impossible to avoid having a conflict at some point in their career; as long as interests are disclosed and managed appropriately, having the conflict may not be necessarily wrong or unethical. However, a conflict can become a problem if an individual tries to influence the outcome of a business decision for personal benefit or involves significant use of university resources for personal activities. This behavior is considered employee misconduct, which is prohibited by university policy and, in some cases, the law.
Why must I disclose my interests?
Virginia’s Conflict of Interest Act is based on the premise that state employees owe a duty of loyalty to their public employer. In the performance of university responsibilities, VCU employees have the obligation to act in the best interests of the university without regard to competing personal interests they may have. The interest disclosure process is also required to ensure that employees comply with state law and university policy.
What happens if someone refuses to complete the state-required disclosure process?
If an individual in a Position of Trust refuses to complete the interest disclosure form, senior leadership in the area should seek to address any questions or concerns raised by the employee regarding the disclosure requirements. If the employee continues to refuse, the failure to comply should be documented in the employee’s personnel file and will be grounds for possible disciplinary action.
Who coordinates the interest disclosure process?
The Integrity and Compliance Office (ICO) notifies employees in a position of trust that their disclosure is required upon hire and annually thereafter. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that employees in a Position of Trust complete the disclosure on time. The ICO tracks completion and reviews each disclosure for potential conflicts.
What will happen if an employee discloses information that suggests the existence of a conflict?
The Integrity and Compliance Office may speak with the employee, obtain relevant details and share the findings with management, if necessary, so that it may be resolved or managed.
A current or prospective vendor is offering to pay my travel and hotel expenses to attend a conference or event. Would this be appropriate?
No, employees should not accept offers to attend conferences or otherwise travel at the expense of a current or prospective vendor.
Around the holidays, our office receives gift baskets, candy and other tokens of appreciation from our vendors. Is it appropriate to accept these gifts?
While these types of unsolicited gifts are difficult to avoid, employees are expected to discourage vendors from sending these types of gifts. Recurring gifts arriving throughout the year from the same vendor may not be accepted and should be returned.
A vendor invited me to their annual golf outing. Is it OK to attend?
No. Golf outings (including entrance fees, greens fees and cart fees) may not be accepted from current or prospective vendors.
I am certain I have no conflicts. Do I still have to disclose my interests?
Yes. State law and university policy require disclosure of outside activities and financial interests of all employees in a Position of Trust. While many of these activities do not constitute a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment, they must be disclosed through VCU’s online disclosure system, AIRS.
What is a management plan?
When the COI review team determines that an actual or likely conflict of interest is material, a management plan may be developed to manage, reduce or eliminate any conflicts identified during the review process. When appropriate, the plan should be written in consultation with the employee having the perceived conflict and senior leadership in the employees’ school/division or department.
Plan considerations may include:
- Training on conflicts of interest
- Monitoring/oversight by independent party
- Separation of responsibilities for financial decisions
- Appointment of another employee to oversee project
- Disqualifying employee from participating in activity posing conflict
- Divestiture of financial interest or severing relationship causing the conflict
The plan should include:
- Written agreement of compliance with the plan
- Biannual follow-up meetings to confirm compliance with the plan
Other employees in the department should be assured of their right to raise concerns if they believe the managed conflict is impacting decisions/actions inappropriately
Will the content of my disclosure form be kept confidential?
The information submitted through VCU's online disclosure system, AIRS, will be shared internally only with VCU employees who have a need to know. However, the Statement of Economic Interests form, within the Commonwealth's online disclosure system, is available to members of the public upon request.
Additionally, PHS regulations require that prior to the expenditure of any funds under a PHS-funded research project, VCU must make information about any significant financial interest (SFI) that has been determined to be a financial conflict of interest (fCOI), and is held by senior/key personnel, publicly available.
What is the timeline for the interest disclosure process?
Target dates are as follows:
- Early January – Notification of the annual disclosure process to state filers
- January 15 – Due date to complete the Commonwealth's online disclosure form
- January 15 (every odd-numbered year) – Due date to complete Virginia's Conflict of Interest Act & Ethics in Public Contracting Training - Orientation Course
When filling out the Statement of Economic Interests form, who do I consider my "immediate family"?
Immediate family means spouse, children who are still living at home and are dependents, or any other person living in your home who is dependent upon you and who received from you more than one-half of his or her financial support.
When completing the Statement of Economic Interests form, what do I consider my "personal liabilities"?
Personal liabilities means money owed to a bank or one creditor for over $5,000. This debt includes such things as student loans and credit cards. This does not include such things that can be taken away for non-payment, such as a car loan or a mortgage on your home. For example, your house or car can be repossessed if you do not pay; however, if you have student loans, your education cannot be taken away from you, and you are personally liable to pay on these loans.
When completing the Statement of Economic Interests form, what do I consider a "gift"?
All gifts over $50, or in aggregate of $50 over the disclosure period, must be reported. A gift is considered any gratuity, hospitality, entertainment (including meals, transportation, lodging) that was given to you by a business, government or individual other than a relative or close personal friend and for which you neither paid for nor provided services in exchange.
When completing the Statement of Economic Interests form, who do I consider a "close financial associate"?
A close financial associate includes any partner in a business, co-owner of a business or piece of land, or member of your immediate family. This does not include an individual who is receiving retirement benefits from a business or who may be representing a state governmental agency.
What happens if someone refuses to complete the state-required disclosure process?
If an individual in a Position of Trust refuses to complete the interest disclosure form, a $250 fine is imposed by the state. Senior leadership in the area should seek to address any questions or concerns raised by the employee regarding the disclosure requirements. If the employee continues to refuse, the failure to comply should be documented in the employee’s personnel file and will be grounds for possible disciplinary action. Failure to comply is also a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which is punishable by no more than 12 months in jail and a fine of no more than $2,500.