It’s election season and the Washington State University ethics compliance advisor reminds employees it is a violation of the ethics act to promote political candidates or ballot measures during work hours. After work hours, WSU employees have the same right to participate in political activities as other citizens but must not use their WSU title or other WSU resources when doing so, and must make it clear that they are not speaking for WSU.
While interacting with students or the public during work hours, wearing campaign buttons or displaying political signs may lead a reasonable person to believe that the WSU employee is endorsing a political candidate or ballot measure, which is prohibited.
Other examples of prohibited activities include soliciting signatures or raising funds for ballot propositions or candidates during work hours; using WSU resources, including WSU email, a WSU computer, or resources such as paper or a copy machine to promote a political subject.
Additionally, employees may not link to a website that contains political advocacy and cannot link news articles or information that may tend to support or oppose a political candidate or ballot measure. These are also prohibited using WSU resources, including work hours.
The Executive Ethics Board (EEB) enforces RCW 42.52, the Ethics In Public Services Act. An employee found to have violated that act is personally liable. The EEB may impose a fine of up to $5,000 plus any economic damage the violation imposed on the state.
The Ethics Compliance Advisor is available to provide additional information and to answer questions regarding the ethics act.