HISD’s current financial ethics and conflict of interest policies only affect managers and administrators. If passed, every employee will be held to the same standard. The board is in favor of the new changes, but procedurally can’t enact them till a second vote next month. Norm Uhl is with HISD.
“All employees will come under this conflict of interest policy and will not be able accept anything other than token gifts from vendors or people that are potentially vendors.”
By token gifts he means coffee mugs, key chains, pens, or other small trinkets. The board also voted to establish a code of silence. That means some HISD employees will not be allowed to talk with companies seeking to do business with the district during the bidding process. Uhl says the stricter policies were initially drafted for employees who are part of the federally funded E-rate technology program, which provides discounted telecommunications services to schools.
“Our administrators looked at that and said, ‘Well, why can’t we just do this for the entire district; what would that look like?’ So they basically took the E-rate policy and crafted it into something that would affect all of the employees of HISD.”
E-rate employees came under more stringent conflict of interest policies earlier this year when federal funding for the E-rate program was restored. Funding was suspended back in 2006 after federal regulators accused three now former HISD employees of violating ethics rules. The board will vote to officially approve the new policies on October 14th.