Ethics Liaison Officer
The Function of the Ethics Liaison Officer Frequently Asked Questions
Why does Montclair State need an ethics liaison officer?
Every agency of the State of New Jersey is required to have an ethics liaison officer to ensure that its employees are aware of, and comply with, State ethics laws, regulations, and executive orders. See a complete list of responsibilities attached to the job.
In this context, what constitutes an “ethical” issue?
As State employees, we are all required to follow the rules included in such statutes as the Uniform Ethics Code and the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law and various gubernatorial executive orders. Thus, the term "ethics" refers here primarily to principles concerning employees' not abusing their public offices for personal gain, avoiding conflicts of interest, and generally upholding the public's trust. New Jersey's rules of ethical conduct target accepting gifts from outside persons or entities with whom you deal in your job, using your government position to get favors for yourself, friends, or relatives, and using State time or resources for personal benefit, for example.
In this context, then, "ethics" does not include: issues involving prohibited discrimination and harassment; other unfair treatment regarding promotion, discipline, or job rating; issues of administrative and professorial style; or anyone's private behavior. Thus, a charge of sexual harassment or discrimination is not the province of the ethics liaison officer, but properly goes to the University's equal opportunity/affirmative action officer.
What happens once a complaint is made?
The first question is: Does a matter fall within the University's Code of Ethics? Again, the code is fairly narrow, focusing on conflicts of interest and employment outside the University.
If a matter does fall with the Uniform Code of Ethics, then an initial determination of the facts must be made. It is the duty of the ethics liaison officer to ensure that only credible, substantive complaints are investigated, and to carry out any such investigation in a manner that protects to the fullest degree the interests of everyone involved.
If the matter does justify investigation, then the person in question is notified. Usually, a conversation is all that is required to resolve the matter.
Only if the person in question resists our advice regarding his or her obligations does the matter go the State Ethics Commission, whose job it is to conduct a formal investigation and issue an official ruling on a case. From 1995 to 2007, that has happened all of once at Montclair State. A referral to the Commission will not be made without the knowledge of the person in question.
Who ultimately decides whether an action constitutes an ethical violation?
Neither the ethics liaison officer nor any other administrator at Montclair State is authorized to make final determinations regarding violations of the state’s ethical standards. Only the State Ethics Commission may make determinations regarding allegations of unethical conduct by state employees.