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Index to Ethics Commission Opinions - 1999
The Department of Recreation and Parks cannot permit certain employees to participate in departmental programs without charge, where the programs are established to serve the public for the payment of a fee. This type of special privilege violates §3-104(a) of the Public Ethics Law.
An employee may serve as a mediator in civil disputes, on either a compensated or pro-bono basis, either selected by clients or appointed by the court.
An employee may accept the gift of a ticket to a political fundraiser from a non-controlled donor, provided that the employee does not participate in any formal introductions as a county employee, or other ceremonies of an official nature. §3-106.
A private consulting firm may submit a proposal to the county, when that firm participated by contract with the county in developing the specifications that were subsequently used in the request for the proposal. The firm had no information that was not equally available to other bidders and no apparent advantage over other bidders. More important, the Public Ethics Law does not apply to private vendors in these circumstances. §1-101(f).
An employee may engage in secondary employment as a public speaker, provided that the entity that markets the employee's skills does no business with the county, and does not use the employee's title in advertising. §3-104.
A police officer serves on the Animal Control Commission by ordinance, in an ex officio capacity, and it does not violate §3-105 for the officer to be so engaged even though the Police Department is charged with the enforcement of the Animal Control Laws.
The classified employee member of the Personnel Board who is subsequently elected to an office in a bargaining unit can continue to serve on the board, subject to certain restrictions as to participation in matters in which the union has an interest. §3-105(d).
An employee in the Critical Areas Division of the Permit Office may buy and build a home in a critical area, subject to the same rules as any other homeowner, and provided that care is taken to ensure that permits are issued by people who are not subject to the employee's supervision. §3-104.
Fire Department personnel may not accept travel expenses from the manufacturer of fire safety equipment in order to visit the manufacturer's location to consider the purchase of fire safety products. §3-106.
Members of the County Council may accept paperweights engraved with the name of the Community College from the college, as a ceremonial gift of insignificant value, provided that the gift is not given while legislation is pending that would affect the college. §3-106(c)(2).
An employee may not be employed by a community newspaper, either as a guest columnist, or as a member of the editorial advisory board, if the publication will be taking a position on issues of local government or politics. §§3-104, 3-105(b)(2), 3-107.
An employee may accept a golf shirt, valued at under $25, from a controlled donor, as a gift of "nominal value", if there is no pending legislation, litigation, or other pending matters involving the donor and the recipient or the recipient's agency. §3-106(c)(3).
An employee may continue to be involved in the production of a television show broadcast over the local PEG channel, since that channel is a public access channel. There is no financial gain to the employee and there are no prestige of office issues involved, since the employee was involved in the production of the show prior to any employment with the county. §§3-104, 3-105.
An employee may not accept the gift of a cell phone from an entity subject to the authority of the employee and the employee's agency. §3-106(b). (Further details would tend to identify the parties.)
A former employee may engage in employment similar to that person's previous county employment, as long as the job does not involve matters in which the former employee exercised "substantial responsibility" §3-109. (Further details would tend to identify the parties.)
The Cultural Arts Foundation is a private, non-profit corporation that is not subject to the Public Ethics Law, so the Ethics Commission cannot advise the foundation as to whether members of entities that receive funding from the foundation may sit on the foundation's board of trustees.
A ceremonial gift from a lobbyist to members of the County Council that is of "insignificant monetary value" may not be accepted while there is pending legislation that will affect the lobbyist's interests, because pending legislation is a factor indicating that the gift is designed to impair the impartial and independent judgment of the recipient. §3-106(c)(2).
An employee may accept secondary employment with a corporation that contracts with a state agency pursuant to an agreement between the county and the state agency, under the circumstances described. §3-105. (Further details would tend to identify the parties.)
Employees of an agency may accept an invitation from a donor doing business with the agency, to attend a golf outing that is held as a charitable benefit. The attending employees are expected to make a significant donation to the charity in lieu of payment to attend the golf outing. This donation constitutes "adequate and lawful consideration" for the golf outing ticket, and is therefore, not a gift. Beer and hot dogs offered to the attendees is a meal of moderate value and can be accepted. §§1-101(l)(1), 3-106(c)(1).
Employees may not accept seminar and lodging fees from a vendor doing business with their agency, to attend an educational seminar, since the employees are not participating as speakers or panelists at the conference. §3-106(c)(4).
Police officers may accept coupons worth $2.00 toward the purchase of a food item at a local mall restaurant, since this coupon is not a gift, but is an advertising inducement to purchase more than the one item. This coupon is commonly part of a marketing plan offered to members of the public through newspapers, mail circulars and other promotional means. §1-101(l)(1).
An environmental consulting firm may not employ a County Council member as a consultant to market the firm's services to land developers working in the county. This inquiry came from the consulting firm, and was answered pursuant to §1001B(f) of the Anne Arundel County Charter. § §3-104(a), 3-105(c)(1).