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Index to Ethics Commission Opinions - 1997

AO-97-36 Icon: PDf
The employee-member of the Personnel Board may not participate in the hearing, deliberations, or decision of the specific grievance involving AFSCME, Local 562, because the decision rendered by the Board may affect the interests of that member and the particular subgroup to which the employee belongs. The employee-member may participate in matters where a decision rendered by the Board would affect that employee’s interests along  with the interests of all county classified employees. §3-101(a)(1),  §1-101(n)(1)

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The "Stop Thief" program may include the solicitation and receipt of donations from private insurers on behalf of the public without violating '3-106 of the Public Ethics Law. Even if the receipt of the anti-theft device would not be, strictly speaking, a gift, the police department should follow specific guidelines to avoid the appearance of exerting undue influence in the creation and carrying out of this program and in the solicitation of donors.

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A legislator may not vote on controversial zoning legislation that affects a community where the legislator is building a house for resale, as part of his business.   §3-102(a) and (b)(2)(i),  §1-101(n)(1)


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The Department of Aging may not sponsor a private entity that proposes to make home visits to clients of the Meals-on-Wheels program in order to provide screening and information about its services.  §3-104,  §3-107


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The Police and Fire Departments may solicit donations from private businesses to help fund door prizes for the annual Public Safety Expo because the solicitation will further the agencies' purposes and it is the public that will benefit from the donations.  Certain precautions, detailed in the opinion must be followed to ensure that there is no appearance of improper influence in the solicitation or receipt of donations.   §3-106(a),  §1-102(a)(2),  §3-104


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County employees may not accept travel and lodging expenses from a potential  vendor to visit the vendor's manufacturing plant.  If the county pays for these expenses,  the county employees may accept meals and beverages of modest value from the potential  vendor, since the value and one-time nature of this gift would not tend to impair the  judgment or impartiality of the county employees.  §3-106(b) and (c),  §1-101(l)(1)


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Although county employees may participate in charitable fund-raising as private citizens, a county department may not officially participate in a fundraiser sponsored by a charitable organization.  Supervisory employees in their official capacities, may not recruit their co-workers or solicit contributions from them. The department's name may not be used in fund-raising efforts and county employees may not use their job titles in furthering the charitable cause.  §3-106(a),  §3-104,  §1-102


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The Fire Department may participate in privately sponsored events that are open and free to the public, to fulfill its public safety goals. The department must determine a method to ensure that its decision to participate in these events is made  impartially. Although the department may receive gifts from the private entity sponsors,  the gifts must be related to the department's public purpose, for distribution to the public. The department may not solicit gifts from the entities that invite their  participation and must avoid the implication that donations to the department are the quid pro quo for departmental participation.  §3-104,  §3-106

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Commission advises the county council member that he may not participate in any legislation affecting towing licenses in Anne Arundel County, and that participation includes any discussion in a work session or in a public hearing. Although work sessions and public hearings are open to the public, a council member with a direct interest in legislation under discussion would be welladvised to leave the room during this part of the meeting or hearing, to avoid the appearance of attempting to influence legislation.

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Neither a county department nor any organization acting on its behalf, may solicit contributions of food or door prizes to help defray expenses of a proposed department picnic. These donations do not benefit the public and do not promote the public  purposes of the department  §3-106(a), (b), and (c)


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An employee may not participate as the Development Team Leader in the review  of a subdivision plan submitted by the employee's father-in-law, because the relative has an  "interest" in the matter.  §3-101(a)(1)(iii),  §1-101(n)(1),  §1-102


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Hiring and supervising one's own spouse as a legislative assistant is a violation of the Public Ethics Law and continuing the employment constitutes a continuing violation.  The employment should be immediately terminated. §3-101(a)(1)(ii), 3-104(a), and  3-105(b)(2)


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A public safety agency may enact and enforce secondary employment provisions that  are stricter than the provisions of the Anne Arundel County Public Ethics Laws.


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County employees who are not in a position to affect the choice of vendors or other contractors with the county may accept the gift of a ticket to a contractor's crab feast, valued at $25.00 but may not accept a door prize valued at more than $25.00.  Even an employee who attends the crab feast with a purchased ticket may not accept a door prize valued above $25.00.


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The use of E-mail by a county employee to campaign for an elected position on a county board violates §3-104, prohibiting the use of the prestige of office or position for an employee's private gain.


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A county employee may accept the gift of a ticket to a political fundraiser if  the donor is not a "controlled donor" within the definition of §3-106.


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A county official may not offer testimony before the Board of Appeals solely as to the "character" of a county  employee, if the official has no factual evidence to present.  Offering this type of testimony would violate the prestige of office provision of  §3-104.


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A county employee may not accept secondary employment with a vendor doing business with that employee's agency, even if the employment would occur out of the county or the state.


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A retired county official may contract to provide personal services to the county in order to complete projects started prior to the official's retirement.


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A county employee may not represent a community association in matters involving the employee's department, even if the employee does not participate in those matters as  part of any official duties.


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A county employee with one department may undertake secondary employment for an employer who is subject to the authority of a different department, as long as the employee does not participate in those matters.  The employee may not use the prestige of the employee's office to help the employer in any dealings with the county.  (Further details  would tend to identify the parties).


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A county official may not appoint a county employee to serve on a commission because of the possibility of conflicts of interest between the employee's agency and the commission and because of the possibility of partiality toward the appointing authority.   (Further details would tend to identify the parties).


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A contractual employee with a state agency is subject to State Ethics Laws and should consult the State Ethics Commission to find out whether the employee may accept a contract with a county agency.


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A public safety agency may solicit gifts to promote an officially sanctioned public safety program, if the ultimate beneficiaries of the gifts would be members of the public rather than county employees.  This exception to the prohibition against the solicitation of gifts is subject to certain guidelines and limitations.


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A gift given to a county employee must be reported by a lobbyist even if the gift is not attributable to a specific client.


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The Anne Arundel Economic Opportunity Committee, Inc. is not subject to the Anne  Arundel County Public Ethics Law.


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A county employee may accept secondary employment, doing work that is similar to  the employee's official duties, as long as the secondary employer does no business in Anne  Arundel County.  The situation described indicates that the secondary employment will have no impact on the employee's official duties and since the employee's skills were acquired  prior to joining the county, there are no prestige of office issues.  (Further details would  tend to identify the parties).


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Payment of tuition to a private school creates a contractual relationship with the school that constitutes an "interest" as defined in §1-101(n).


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A county employee may accept and use a financial bonus given by a former employer since it is not a gift, but is given in exchange for work performed for the former employer, and since the former employer is not a controlled donor as to the employee's agency in the county.


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Section 3-104 prohibits an employee from helping a family member to obtain employment with a contractor doing work with the employee's department, even if the employee is not involved in the contracting process.


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