SB37 - Education, institution of higher education, board of trustees, unlawful to be financially interested in any contract or transaction affecting interests of institution

Sponsor(s): Senator Singleton

Summary/Synopsis: This bill makes it unlawful for Trustees of State institutions of higher learning to be "financially interested" in any contract or transaction affecting the interests of the institution or to "influence" the terms and conditions of any employee except through "prescribed procedures" of the institution.
League Action and Justification: Monitor.

This bill would appear to be a response to various disputes in recent years regarding activities of Trustees in various institutions. 

While the financial interest portion of the bill appears to be consistent with League positions on ethics for elected and appointed officials ("public office will be used for the public good and not private gain") the bill's provisions go beyond the League's positions and may be overly broad and too vague.  The League, however, does support transparency in governmental operations.

Given the breadth of contracts and transactions affecting the interests of a major university, it could be difficult to find qualified people who never have any financial interest in any contract or transaction with the university.  Having an interest in any transaction is different from using the office for private gain.  (A less restrictive requirement would be to require that the Trustee not participate in any decision affecting a transaction in which the Trustee might have a financial interest.)   

Since the Trustee's job is partly to hire and fire the President of the institution, prohibiting "influence" except through unspecified (and potentially unclear) "prescribed procedures" could be a way to go after anyone criticizing performance by employees, including college presidents and football coaches.

Bill Progress in Legislature:

01/14/2014: First Reading and referred to the