Personal interests that rise to the level they must be disclosed are generally prohibited as conflicts of interest by state law. However, employees may request a conflict of interest waiver. If you believe you have a personal interest in a contract with Mason that meets the definition listed in University Policy 4001, you must disclose it. The personal interest will then be reviewed by the Conflict of Interest Committee to determine if a waiver is required, and if it may be granted. If you have a significant financial interest that could cause a conflict, complete and attach a draft management plan to your disclosure.
If the committee determines a management plan or Virginia waiver is necessary, these documents can be publicly released due to public access provisions in federal and Commonwealth regulations. For more information, contact University Ethics Officer & Policy Manager Elizabeth Woodley in the Compliance, Diversity and Ethics office.
Depending on the circumstances, failure to fully disclose a conflict of interest could lead to discipline up to and including termination. Violating Virginia’s conflict of interest laws could also result in criminal penalties.
Examples of conflicts that can be waived or managed:
- Immediate family members work at Mason, but neither has supervisory authority over the other.
- Planned contract between Mason and a business for which an employee of Mason works part time, but the employee has no involvement in the procurement of or future administration of that contract.
To get a conflict of interest (COI) waiver under Virginia law, you might need a management or oversight plan. Contact Elizabeth Woodley for details.
Factors that could be considered in a granting a waiver include:
- Termination of a contract that creates a COI and renegotiation/submission of a request for proposal (RFP).
- Modification/severance/divestiture/restructuring of financial interest.
- Reduction of financial interest.
- Requirement to file a public statement of economic interests (SEI) with the state listing the COI.
- Exclusion of employee from all business transactions between the university and the organization in which the financial interest is held.
- Use of a third-party for all negotiations between Mason and the organization in which the financial interest is held.
- Removal of the employee from all purchasing decisions or contracting authority.
- Procurement activities are performed and managed by the contracting authority (not the unit/department).
- (For dual employment of immediate family members) Removal of employees from direct supervisory chain.
- Monitoring of contract or transactions by an independent supervisor or reviewer.
- Monitoring of contract or transactions by an administrative agent (such as a representative of Purchasing).
- Disqualification of employee from participation in any transaction that interacts with the outside organization in which the investigator holds a financial interest.
- Monitoring of employee collaborations and projects by an independent supervisor or reviewer (for dual employment of immediate family members).
Research Management Plans
Investigators with potential financial conflicts of interest may need to complete a management plan, contact Aurali Dade, Associate Vice President, Research Development, Integrity, and Assurance, for additional information.
Investigators can consider a number in options when developing management plans for financial conflicts of interest.
- Investigator serving for the outside organization while another faculty member serves as principal investigator (PI) for the university. The PI must not have oversight from the conflicted investigator.
- Modification/severance/divestiture/restructuring of financial interest
- Reduction of financial interest.
- Public disclosure of relationship(s) at all presentations and when submitting publications.
- Disclosure of financial conflicts of interest directly to human subjects for research projects involving human subjects,
- Exclusion of investigator from all business transactions between the university and the organization in which the financial interest is held.
- Use of third-party for all negotiations between the university and the organization in which the financial interest is held.
- Removal of the investigator from all purchasing decisions.
- Reducing the percentage of the investigator’s contract to accommodate the outside interest.
- Placing the outside interest in a blind trust.
- Research monitoring by an independent reviewer or review panel.
- Research monitoring by an administrative agent (such as a representative of the dean’s office).
- Disqualification of investigator from participation in part of the research that interacts with the outside organization in which the investigator holds a financial interest (project separation monitored).
Conflict of Interest Committee Membership
- Ali Andalibi, College of Science
- Aurali Dade, Office of Research Development, Integrity & Assurance
- Eileen Gallagher, Office of Sponsored Programs
- Gerald Hanweck, School of Business
- Rodney Hopson, College of Education and Human Development
- Keith Howell, College of Health and Human Services
- Lisa Kemp, Fiscal Services
- Hina Mehta, Office of Technology Transfer
- Art Pyster, Volgenau School of Engineering
- Michele Schwietz, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
- Sue Tinsman, Human Resources and Payroll
- Elizabeth Woodley, Compliance, Diversity, and Ethics