More often than you might think, the OIG receives a complaint about an employee operating a personal business while on department time and sometimes while in a department facility. This is one such case. The employee was alleged to be pressuring coworkers, and consultants who had contracts with the department, to purchase products from them.
Our preliminary inquiry revealed that the employee did have an online personal business selling products. However, when we interviewed coworkers and consultants, none of them provided information which supported the complaint that they were pressured to purchase products. A review of available computer use data also did not show evidence that the employee was using department network resources to conduct their personal business. When we interviewed the employee, they denied selling products in the workplace or pressuring department employees or consultants to buy products. The employee explained how the business was an online venture and that all business activities occurred online.
In the end, we found no evidence to support the allegation and the preliminary inquiry was closed without conversion to a substantive investigation.
When a case like this ends in a positive way for the employee, it’s usually because they understand the ethical dilemma that may arise from their outside business interests and the importance of keeping their outside business interests outside the department workplace. If it was proved that the employee had conducted a personal business while on department time or in a department facility, or that they used department resources to conduct personal business, they would have been in violation of state conduct standards, department policies, and possibly Florida Statute for misreporting their work hours, which would constitute a theft. Some outside business interests could also pose a conflict of interest for the employee.
Keeping your outside business interests out of the workplace is just another way To Do the Right Thing.