A Regent’s conflict

Regent Steve Sviggum needs to resolve his conflict of interest immediately.

by Editorial board

This week an ad hoc group of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents will meet to determine if a conflict of interest exists for Steve Sviggum, one of its newly elected members. In addition to his post of regent, Sviggum currently holds a fellowship at the Hubert H. Humphrey School for Public Affairs that pays $80,000 and involves fundraising.

It is plain that Sviggum does in fact have a significant potential conflict of interest, even though he denies it. He has said âÄúI personally, in my heart, feel that there is no problem. There is no conflict.âÄù

But the Board of RegentsâÄô Code of Ethics is very clear on the matter. It says âÄúa financial conflict of interest exists whenever a Regent âĦ has an actual or potential financial interest âĦ in a matter pending before the Board.âÄù There is no exception for how the Regent feels in his heart.

SviggumâÄôs position at the Humphrey school will be a significant conflict during his time on the Board. In addition to being a financial conflict of interest, it is an explicit violation of the paramount interest clause of the Code of Ethics. It states that Regents âÄúare expected to put aside their parochial interests, keeping the welfare of the entire University, not just a particular constituency, at all times paramount.âÄù

As the governing body of the University, the Board of Regents sets an example for the rest of the University and its employees.

The Regents should hold themselves to the highest standards and follow the spirit and letter of their own policies

Sviggum believes that he will be able to perform his duties impartially. This may well be true. However, the RegentsâÄô policies exist for a good reason. If they are enforced, Sviggum will never be put in a situation where his impartiality might be challenged.