Political Activity and Public Officeholding

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 3:13pm




TO:           Faculty and Staff 

FROM:      Dayton T. Cole, General Counsel

DATE:       September  11, 2014

SUBJECT:  Political Activities of Employees and Candidacy for Elective Office; Officeholding (Elective and Appointive Public Office)

Please print and post this memorandum for individuals in your unit who do not have regular access to e-mail.

Political Activities of Employees

As we enter into political campaign and elections season, I want to remind our campus community of the policies and laws applying to politically-related activities of public employees (all faculty and staff).  Being a state employee does not mean you lose any of your constitutional rights to participate or not participate as you desire in the political process as long as such participation is not on work time and does not involve the use of university property.  However, what each employee may do on the job, with state resources, using or implicating the name of the university, or otherwise affecting your job responsibilities is highly regulated by law (North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 126, Article 5) as well as by UNC system policy.  The full policy governing Political Activities of Employees is set forth in The UNC Policy Manual 300.5.1, which can be accessed through the following link:  http://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/policy/index.php?pg=vs&id=331&added=1 .  This memorandum summarizes the laws and policies, and is intended as a helpful resource to address questions you may have.  

  1. No employee may take an active part in managing a campaign, or campaign for political office or otherwise engage in      political activity during working hours. N.C.G.S. §126-13; UNC Policy 300.5.1; State Human Resources Manual (Section 3, page 23, see: http://www.oshr.nc.gov/Guide/Policies/3_Employment%20and%20Records/Limitation%20of%20Political%20Activity.pdf).
  2. No employee may use his or her position, state or university funds, services (including mail or email service), supplies     (including letterhead), equipment (including telephone and computers), vehicles or other university property to support or oppose a candidate, party or issue in an election involving candidates for office. N.C.G.S. §126-13; UNC Policy 300.5.1.
  3. Community service leave may ONLY be used for working inside a polling facility in a non- partisan role such as assisting voters with the voting process.  However, if an employee is receiving any payment for such activities, then vacation leave (or available comp time balances) must be charged.   Standing outside the polling facility and distributing candidate information is partisan activity and vacation leave (or available comp time) must be used. 
  4. No employee may coerce an employee to support or contribute to a political candidate or party or to change voter registration. N.C.G.S. §126-14.
  5. No EPA employee (including Faculty and EPA Non-Faculty) may promise preferential treatment or threaten detrimental treatment of an employee to induce support of or opposition to a candidate. UNC Policy No. 300.5.1.

 Candidacy for Elective Office; Officeholding (Elective and Appointive Public Office)

In addition to complying with the laws and policies described above, all EPA employees (Faculty and EPA Non-Faculty) who are candidates for or who hold public office (elective and appointive) must comply with UNC Policy 300.5.2. This policy is set forth at http://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/policy/index.php?pg=vs&id=332&added=1.

Policy 300.5.2 distinguishes between Major Public Offices and Minor Public Offices.  This distinction is important, among other reasons, because of certain reporting and petition requirements that must be met before an individual may announce candidacy for or assume Major or Minor Public Office.  Differing conflict of interest and conflict of commitment provisions also apply, depending on the type of public office. The two types of office are defined as follows:

“Major Public Office” means (a) any public office requiring full-time service, regardless of the amount of compensation; (b) any public office requiring part-time service with “compensation which is more than nominal” [generally speaking, compensation in excess of $10,000]; and (c) membership in the North Carolina General Assembly.

“Minor Public Office” means any public office that is not a Major Public Office.

Prospective candidates or office holders for some public office must petition the Board of Trustees or the Board of Governors (through, respectively, the Chancellor or the President) for approval months in advance; failure to do so may result in loss of university employment. In general, an employee who intends to announce as a candidate in a race with a May primary must petition the appropriate governing board no later than the preceding November 1; and an employee who intends to stand for election in November should petition no later than the preceding July 1.  Policy 300.5.2 also addresses leaves of absence, deemed resignations, and other matters related to candidacy for or holding public office.

Questions concerning the interpretation and application of the laws and policies may be addressed to me (coledt@appstate.edu) or 262-2751.  If you have questions about leave policies, please contact the Office of Human Resources at 262-3186.  Thank you.





Office of General Counsel Appalachian State University
B.B. Dougherty Administration Building, Third Floor
438 Academy Street
P.O. Box 32126
Boone, NC 28608-2126
828-262-2751 (phone)
828-262-8056 (fax)

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