A look at U officials’ finance disclosures

About 9,000 employees file to be transparent about possible conflicts of interest.

A look at U officials' finance disclosures

Katherine Lymn

The scandals are few and far between — most notably Steve Sviggum in recent years — but when conflicts of interest arise for the University of Minnesota’s leaders and employees, it can cause a maelstrom.

The conflicts often end up defining a person’s time at the University, or end it, as when Sviggum this year ran into conflict issues for a second time. The existence or even perception of a biased leader at a public university harms public trust.

So, each year the University requires regents and about 9,000 other employees to report any possible conflicts.

Growing relationships with outside businesses and institutions led the University to clarify its own policy since the latest filings.

Regents this month altered the definition of a conflict for senior administrators, including themselves, to include any time the University’s “institutional research may be compromised or appear to be compromised.”

Potential conflicts could arise when a company donates to the University and also funds research at the University; there could also be trouble if a senior administrator owns substantial stock in a company that does business with the University.

The amendments were to clarify that the regents are concerned mostly about “business and transactional activities” that could provoke conflicts of interest, University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said.

The Minnesota Daily obtained the most recent reports for regents and select senior administrators.

—Emma Nelson contributed to this report