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Ethics/Conflicts of Interest

Certain executive branch officials must: (1) disclose potential conflicts of interest; (2) disclose sources of income; and (3) refrain from accepting gifts from lobbyists.

The following executive branch officials (as well as legislators) are included in the definition of "public official" under the ethical practices laws: constitutional officers; commissioners, deputy commissioners, and assistant commissioners of state agencies; and members and chief administrative officers of state boards. Minn. Stat., sec. 10A.01.

Inclusion as a public official means that these people must take the following actions if they would be required to take an action or make a decision that would substantially affect their financial interest:

  • give a written statement describing the potential conflict to the person's superior
  • if possible, assign the matter to another employee who does not have a conflict
  • if the matter cannot be reassigned and the public official cannot abstain from the matter, the official must file a statement with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, describing the conflict and the action taken. Minn. Stat., sec. 10A.07.

A person defined as a public official also must file an annual statement of economic interest with the Ethical Practices Board.  This statement lists sources of income and certain investments held by the official.  Minn. Stat., sec. 10A.09.

A public official also is forbidden from accepting a gift from a lobbyist or from an individual or association who hires a lobbyist.  A gift includes, among other things, any property, service or promise of future employment that is given without the giver receiving consideration of equal or greater value. Minn. Stat., sec. 10A.071.

State law provides a code of ethics for executive branch employees.

Among other things, the code:

  • forbids employees from receiving gifts for activity related to employment;
  • forbids employees from using confidential information to further the employee's private interests;
  • forbids use of state time or property for the employee's private interests, or for any other use not in the interest of the state; and
  • requires employees to attempt to avoid specified conflicts of interest. Minn. Stat., sec. 43A.38.

October 2008