Awards are scheduled to be presented to fire and EMS volunteers when the Patrick County Board of Supervisors meets at 6 p.m. on Monday, February 13.
Lisa Price-Hughes, resident engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), is scheduled to address the board. The agenda does not specify the topic. Supervisors also will consider an ARPA request, according to the draft agenda.
The meeting, which will be held in the Patrick County Administration Building, includes a discussion about Volunteer Services Acknowledgement. The board also may meet in closed session to address personnel and real estate matters.
The meeting Monday marks the first since the discussion about the county’s Conflict of Interest policy was tabled when the board opted to seek additional information from its attorney, Mark Popovich of the Salem law firm Guynn, Waddell, Carroll & Lockaby, P.C.
The issue arose after a county employee asked the board to reconsider the policy that prohibits employees from volunteering or working with local rescue squads. The broad and sweeping policy is applicable to board members and county employees.
The policy includes a plethora of definitions – among them are Conflicts of Interest, Confidential Information, Apparent Conflict of Interest, De minimis economic impact, Financial interest, Honorarium, Immediate family and Business partner.
Much of the policy later goes on to specify board members, including a portion titled “Disclosure of Financial Interests,” which states that “No Board member shall be allowed to take the oath of office or enter or continue upon his/her duties, nor shall s/he receive compensation from public funds, unless s/he has filed a statement of financial interests as required by law.”
Officials have said Patrick County’s policy was patterned after a similar document in Henry County.
Public Safety Director Matt Tatum said Henry County’s policy includes provisions for employees who wish to volunteer with volunteer fire and/or EMS agencies in the county but does not allow employees to work for other county agencies without permission.
The impetus was a now decades-old legal case in Virginia Beach in which a court found that the locality was responsible for paying an employee for volunteer time. The policy in Henry County predated the career or paid squads, Tatum said.
The policy allows “our staff to volunteer for the volunteer fire departments, rescue squads, SPCA, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, or any other non-profit organization they desire to volunteer with,” Tatum said, but it “will not allow a full-time employee to work part-time for any” organization that contracts with the county unless the employee has permission.
The policy states “the department manager’s permission” is required “before a full-time employee can accept part-time employment for compensation.”
Requests are “at the discretion of the department manager as to if the part-time job would or could create a conflict of interest in any way,” Tatum said, adding requests are handled on a case-by-case basis.
Initially effective on July 1, 2007, the policy was revised on April 1, 2014. It states, in part, that county employees may volunteer with local emergency services organizations as is practical while “accurately distinguishing Work Time from that of volunteer service, such activity will not be used to evaluate work performance nor be considered for promotional advantages” for Public Service employees.
In addition to establishing the normal working hours and days and other particulars, the policy states that attendance at volunteer meetings is not considered work time, except in certain circumstances with supervisor approval.
“Response to emergency incidents during normal work hours may be counted as work time. Response to actual emergency incidents outside of normal work hours may be counted as work time as long as it is not used to reduce the amount of vacation, sick, or holiday time scheduled for the week. Upon request from the volunteer organization, exempt employees may hold an officer position – excluding Fire Chief and/or EMS Captain.”
However, county employees are prohibited from holding a leadership role in a volunteer organization in which they are responsible for disciplining others, Tatum said.
The county also requires employees who volunteer with rescue or fire organizations to sign a ‘Volunteer Disclaimer’ in which acknowledge that they “have not been asked, induced, coerced, intimidated, or required to volunteer my services to any non-profit fire or rescue organization located in Henry County by any Henry County personnel,” the document states.
It adds, “I will not receive compensation of any kind from Henry County for such volunteer services. No one from the Henry County Department of Public Safety, or any other person representing Henry County, has made any representations to me to the contrary concerning my decision to either volunteer or not volunteer in any non-profit fire or rescue organization.”
The disclaimer reinforces the understanding that an employee’s volunteer work is done without the expectation of getting paid, promoted, or special treatment. In short, “to eliminate the idea of any compensation whatsoever” and differentiate volunteer work from employees’ full-time jobs, Tatum said.
In some cases, volunteer squads offer stipends to those who run calls.
“I know of jurisdictions across the Commonwealth that allow it and others that don’t,” he said. For instance, Franklin County “is adamant they will not allow” their employees to volunteer. The policy in Henry County was crafted to be “very clear up front.”
The county “does not get into the stipend” situation, Tatum said. “If they’re joining a volunteer squad, we’re acting out of good faith they’re going to volunteer.”
(The Patrick County’s Conflict of Interest policy as provided to The Enterprise by the County Administrator’s Office is located in the sidebar.)
PATRICK COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Conflict of Interest Policy
Conflicts of Interest
This policy shall affirm standards of conduct established to ensure that Board members and employees of Patrick County (the “County) avoid potential and actual conflicts of interest, as well as the perception of a conflict of interest.
Confidential information shall mean information not obtainable from reviewing a public document or from making inquiry to a publicly available source of information.
Conflict or Conflict of interest shall mean use by a Board member or employee of the authority of his/her office or employment, or any confidential information received through his/her holding public office or employment, for the private pecuniary benefit of him/herself, a member of his/her immediate family or a business with which s/he or a member of his/her immediate family is associated. The term does not include an action having a de minimis economic impact, or which affects to the same degree a class consisting of the general public or a subclass consisting of an industry, occupation or other group which includes the Board member or employee, a member of his/her immediate family or a business with which s/he or a member of his/her immediate family is associated.
Apparent Conflict of Interest shall mean a situation in which a reasonable person would perceive that a decision-maker’s (Board member or employee) judgment is likely to be compromised.
De minimis economic impact shall mean an economic consequence which has an insignificant effect.
Financial interest shall mean any financial interest in a legal entity engaged in business for profit which comprises more than five percent (5%) of the equity of the business or more than five percent (5%) of the assets of the economic interest in indebtedness.
Honorarium shall mean payment made in recognition of published works, appearances, speeches and presentations, and which is not intended as consideration for the value of such services which are nonpublic occupational or professional in nature. The term does not include tokens presented or provided which are of de minimis economic impact.
Immediate family shall mean a parent, parent-in-law, spouse, child, spouse of a child, brother, brother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, or the domestic partner of a parent, child, brother or sister.
Business partner shall mean a person who, along with another person, plays a significant role in owning, managing, or creating a company in which both individuals have a financial interest in the company.
Each employee and Board member shall be responsible to maintain standards of conduct that avoid conflicts of interest. The Board prohibits members of the Board and employees from engaging in conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest as outlined in this policy.
All Board members and employees shall be provided with a copy of this policy and acknowledge in writing that they have been made aware of it. Additional training shall be provided to designated individuals.
Disclosure of Financial Interests
No Board member shall be allowed to take the oath of office or enter or continue upon his/her duties, nor shall s/he receive compensation from public funds, unless s/he has filed a statement of financial interests as required by law.
Standards of Conduct (This section specifically addresses requirements of 2 CFR § 200.318)
The County maintains the following standards of conduct covering conflicts of interest and governing the actions of its employees and Board members engaged in the selection, award and administration of contracts.
No employee or Board member may participate in the selection, award or administration of a contract supported by a federal award if s/he has a real or apparent conflict of interest as defined above, as well as any other circumstance in which the employee, Board member, any member of his/her immediate family, his/her business partner, or an organization which employs or is about to employ any of them, has a financial or other interest in or a tangible personal benefit from a firm considered for a contract.
The County shall not enter into any contract with a Board member or employee, or his/her spouse or child, or any business in which the person or his/her spouse or child is associated valued at $500 or more, nor in which the person or spouse or child or business with which associated is a subcontractor unless the Board has determined it is in the best interests of the County to do so, and the contract has been awarded through an open and public process, including prior public notice and subsequent public disclosure of all proposals considered and contracts awarded. In such a case, the Board member or employee shall not have any supervisory or overall responsibility for the implementation or administration of the contract.
When advertised formal bidding is not required or used, an open and public process shall include at a minimum:
- Public notice of the intent to contract for goods or services;
- A reasonable amount of time for potential contractors to consider whether to offer quotes; and
- Post-award public disclosure of who made bids or quotes and who was chosen.
Any Board member or employee who in the discharge of his/her official duties would be required to vote on a matter that would result in a conflict of interest shall abstain from voting and, prior to the vote being taken, publicly announce and disclose the nature of his/her interest as a public record.
No public official or public employee shall accept an honorarium.
Board members and employees may neither solicit nor accept gratuities, favors or anything of monetary value from contractors or parties to subcontracts, unless the gift is an unsolicited item of nominal value. Gifts of a nominal value may be accepted in accordance with Board policy.
No person shall offer or give to a Board member, employee or nominee or candidate for the Board, or a member of his/her immediate family or a business with which s/he is associated, anything of monetary value, including a gift, loan, political contribution, reward or promise of future employment based on the offeror’s or donor’s understanding that the vote, official action or judgment of the Board member, employee or nominee or candidate for the Board would be influenced thereby.
No Board member, employee or nominee or candidate for the Board shall solicit or accept anything of monetary value, including a gift, loan, political contribution, reward or promise of future employment, based on any understanding of that Board member, employee or nominee or candidate that the vote, official action or judgment of the Board member, employee or nominee or candidate for the Board would be influenced thereby.
Organizational Conflicts (This section specifically addresses requirements of 2 CFR §200.318)
Organizational conflicts of interest may exist when due to the County’s relationship with a subsidiary, affiliated or parent organization that is a candidate for award of a contract in connection with federally funded activities, the County may be unable or appear to be unable to be impartial in conducting a procurement action involving a related organization.
In the event of a potential organizational conflict, the potential conflict shall be reviewed by the Administrator or designee to determine whether it is likely that the County would be unable or appear to be unable to be impartial in making the award. If such likelihood exists, this shall not disqualify the related organization; however, the following measures shall be applied:
- The organizational relationship shall be disclosed as part of any notices to potential contractors;
- Any County employees or officials directly involved in the activities of the related organization are excluded from the selection and award process;
- A competitive bid, quote or other basis of valuation is considered; and
- The Board has determined that contracting with the related organization is in the best interests of the program
Any perceived conflict of interest that is detected or suspected by any employee or third party shall be reported to the Administrator. If the Administrator is the subject of the perceived conflict of interest, the employee or third party shall report the incident to the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
Any perceived conflict of interest of a Board member that is detected or suspected by any employee or third party shall be reported to the Administrator.
No reprisals or retaliation shall occur as a result of good faith reports of conflicts of interest.
Investigations based on reports of perceived violations of this policy shall comply with state and federal laws and regulations. No person sharing in the potential conflict of interest being investigated shall be involved in conducting the investigation or reviewing its results.
In the event an investigation determines that a violation of this policy has occurred, the violation shall be reported to the federal awarding agency in accordance with that agency’s policies.
If an investigation results in a finding that the complaint is factual and constitutes a violation of this policy, the County shall take prompt, corrective action to ensure that such conduct ceases and will not recur. County staff shall document the corrective action taken and, when not prohibited by law, inform the complainant.
Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including discharge, fines and possible imprisonment. Disciplinary actions shall be consistent with Board policies, procedures, applicable collective bargaining agreements and state and federal laws.
Policy effective date: _______________.