Issued: December 31, 2007

HHS Circular C-025

Health and Human Services Ethics Policy

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Purpose

To adopt a Health and Human Services (HHS) Ethics Policy in accordance with Texas Government Code Section 572.051(c).

The HHS Ethics Policy is intended to ensure that HHS agency personnel maintain the highest standards of conduct in the performance of their duties while serving our clients and the taxpayers of Texas. As public servants, HHS employees should act fairly and honestly, avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.   The HHS Ethics Policy requires HHS employees to do more than the law requires and less than the law allows. The failure of the HHS Ethics Policy to address or prohibit a specific action or behavior does not mean that the action or behavior is condoned or permissible. 

All HHS employees must become familiar with this Ethics Policy, as well as any changes made to it, and comply with its provisions. Violation of this Ethics Policy may form the basis for disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.

Legal Bases

In 2007, the Texas Legislature amended Texas Government Code Section  572.051 (which establishes standards of conduct for state officers and employees) to require each state agency to adopt a written ethics policy for its employees that is consistent with the standards and provisions of Subchapter C of Chapter 572 Government Code.  Pursuant to the authority of the Executive Commissioner, as set out in Chapter 531 of the Texas Government Code, this HHS Ethics Policy is adopted in compliance with Chapter 572 of the Texas Government Code for use by all HHS agencies – the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, the Department of Family and Protective Services, and the Department of State Health Services.

Summary of Policy

  • You may not accept or solicit any gift, favor, or service from any party that may have an interest in influencing you or your employing HHS agency in the conduct of state business.

  • You may not accept a gift for doing your job.
    •• An award given to you by your employing HHS agency is not considered a gift.
    •• If your job requires you to accept something, e.g., a sample of food at a regulated entity, it is not considered a gift.
    •• If you are employed in a direct care or service job, such as a state school employee, you may accept from a consumer/client, a family member of a consumer/client, or a friend of a consumer/client unsolicited baked goods that can be shared and eaten during work hours or arts and crafts of minimal monetary value.
    •• Goods and services of minimal value, such as caps, coffee mugs, or other promotional items, are not prohibited gifts.  However, you are expected to be aware of the potential perceptions created by your acceptance of even token gifts from parties with whom you conduct public business and to avoid accepting gifts that may create an appearance of impropriety.

  • You may not accept an honorarium, i.e., a payment or other monetary compensation, for services you would not have been asked to provide but for your official status with your employing HHS agency.
  • •• An honorarium is a payment or reward for your performance of a specific service in your capacity as a public servant.  It may be a gift as distinguished from compensation for services.
    •• In certain situations, like a speaking engagement, you may accept transportation, lodging, and meals.
    •• You may never accept cash or other forms of monetary compensation other than your state salary and reimbursement for services you perform as a public servant.

  • You may not accept other employment or engage in any business or professional activity that might:
  • •• threaten your ability to perform your HHS duties fairly, honestly, and efficiently; or
    cause you to compromise confidential information you acquired as a result of your state employment.

  • You may not make personal investments or participate in personal relationships that create or may appear to create a conflict of interest with your duties as an HHS employee.

  • You may not violate the restrictions on former HHS employees doing business with their former agencies.
  • •• Some restrictions are permanent.
    ••Other restrictions are in place for a specific time frame.

    Please note that HHS employees must comply with all applicable federal and state statutes, regulations, and rules. The HHS Ethics Policy does not supersede federal or state law. In addition, all HHS employees must comply with the provisions of the HHS Human Resources Manual.

    Policy

    The HHS Ethics Policy can be found at: http://hhscx.hhsc.state.tx.us/legal/ethics/ethics_policy.html.

    Inquiries

    Inquiries regarding the content of this circular can be directed to Steve Aragón, Chief Counsel, at (512) 424-6578, or by e-mail at Steve.Aragon@hhsc.state.tx.us.