January 11, 2007
AG RESPONDS TO CU’S QUESTIONS ON AMENDMENT 41
Editor’s note: The following is an open letter to the University community.
Dear University of Colorado faculty, students and staff:
As you may know, the University recently requested clarification from the attorney general on several provisions of Amendment 41 pertaining to employees of Colorado’s public higher education institutions.
We understand that the intent of the voters, as well as the architects of the amendment, was to address breaches of the public trust by using public office to achieve private gain. However, the University community and Board of Regents have expressed concern about the amendment’s ambiguous language and the potential to extend its provisions into the private lives of public employees.
The AG agreed those concerns are legitimate, and that some language in the amendment is unclear, ambiguous and internally inconsistent. The AG has also suggested that some of these concerns can be clarified through legislation. We expect to see legislation in the upcoming session of the General Assembly that aims to clarify ambiguous terms. The supporters of the amendment and others concur that clarifying legislation should be sought to address concerns.
The purpose of our letter to the attorney general was to obtain as much clarification as possible on key provisions to ensure compliance by university faculty, students and staff. We know that there are several other less pressing but still pertinent questions related to Amendment 41 members of the university community have. We will work to provide you with answers to related questions in an upcoming communiqué. However, we felt it best to address the most pressing concerns to the AG, and wanted to share with you his responses.
Below are the questions we posed to the AG and the answers his office provided. The AG’s responses are givenbelow the bulleted questions we posed.
* Is it permissible for a university employee to receive monetary recognition from someone other than the recipient’s employer, such as the financial component of the Nobel Prize?
Response: Research grants would be permissible under Amendment 41 since the grant is expressly tied to future conduct, and would presumable cease if the conduct ended. Monetary awards such as Nobel Prizes, MacArthur Fellows and other related honors have not been clearly defined in the language, and will likely require legislation to define what is permissible under the amendment. We will work with state leaders and policy makers to seek clarification on this critical matter.
* Is it permissible for university employees or the dependents of university employees to receive scholarships?
Response: If the scholarship requires some future performance, such as matriculation at any college or university, progress toward a degree, maintenance of a specific grade point average or other performance obligation, then it could be considered permissible. If the scholarship is solely based on past performance with no expected future performance, then it would be prohibited under the amendment.
* Is it permissible for a university employee to receive a gift from someone who is not a relative or personal friend, e.g., aid from a private or non-profit entity connected to severe illness ( Make A Wish Foundation ) or disaster ( Red Cross )?
Response: Because the gift does not require future obligation by the recipient to the donor, it would be prohibited as the amendment is currently drafted. Legislation must be sought to clarify the intent of the amendment.
* Is it permissible for a university employee to receive a gift from a relative or personal friend on non-special occasions ( e.g., a relative pays for a family trip not associated with a holiday or a friend brings an expensive bottle of wine to a dinner )?
Response: Because the term “special occasion” is undefined and extremely vague, it is very difficult to say whether it would be permissible or not. Legislation must be sought to provide clarity that is consistent with the intent of Amendment 41.
* Is it permissible for employees to receive lottery winnings, gambling proceeds or winnings from raffles or other special contests?
Response: Because the person either purchased the ticket or placed a monetary wager with the expectation of receiving something of value, the prize is permissible because the person gave consideration for the opportunity to win that prize. On the other hand, proceeds from drawings and lotteries awarded to a person who has given no consideration for the prize are prohibited under the amendment.
We will keep you apprised of further clarifications of these important matters or other related developments regarding Amendment 41. A Web site is available to provide more information and updates at www.cu.edu/news/amendment41. Please do not hesitate to contact your respective University counsel for advice.
Hank Brown, president