Index to Ethics Commission Opinions - 2000
A member of the County Council may not vote on legislation affecting an entity with which the member has a contractual, financial, or other business relationship. In this case, the Council member was an insurance agent for a company that provided insurance to a bus company. The Council member received an annual commission on this account. The legislation would permit the storage of school buses on lots in residential districts under certain circumstances, and would affect the particular company insured through the member. §§3-102(a)(2)(i); 3-101(a).
The classified employee member of the Personnel Board may give factual testimony before the Board on any matter where the testimony is relevant, necessary and unobtainable from other sources. The member may not provide either character or expert testimony before the Board. The member may not participate as a Board member in any matter in which the member provides testimony. §§3-104(a); 3-101.
A member of the Board of Appeals may serve on a committee of a private entity that is organized to develop and oversee a land management plan for land that is part of a conservation easement. Membership on this committee does not give rise to an "employment relationship" within the meaning of the Ethics Law, since there is no fiduciary duty imposed upon the general members of an organization, and since this committee is not an operational or organization management board. §§3-105(b); (c).
A member of the County Council may not serve in an ex officio capacity on the board of directors of a private entity. There is no provision in the Anne Arundel County Charter for ex officio service by a Council member, and the bylaws of a private corporation are not binding upon a Council member. A Council member may serve on the Board of Directors in a personal capacity, but may not then participate as a Council member in legislative or other matters that may affect the entity the member serves. §§3-101(a)(2)(iii); 3-102(b)(1)(iii).
An employee who is a property owner in a Special Community Benefit District may not participate in an official capacity in any matter involving the district, and may not use the prestige or authority of the employee's office or position to promote the interests of the district. §§3-101; 3-102, 3-104(a).
County employees may solicit gifts from their co-workers to give to other co-workers or supervisors, as long as there is no coercive element in the solicitation. Supervisors may accept an occasional gift from the employees under their supervision as long as the gift is of nominal value (about $25), under the circumstances and subject to the conditions set forth in the opinion.
A member of the County Council, acting in a strictly personal capacity as a landowner, may participate in any proceedings that may affect that member's property rights. The member may not represent other property owners, or a civic association, in any matters in which the member has a property interest and in which the county has an interest. The member may not participate in an official capacity, in any matters involving the properties. §§3-101; 3-104; 3-105(c).
An employee may not accept travel or other expenses connected with a conference from an entity that is seeking to do business with the county as a vendor, particularly since in this case, the employee will not be participating as a speaker on a panel, as is required by the exception to the gift prohibition in §3-106(c)(4).
The Chairman of the County Council may not participate in the impasse hearing involving the firefighters' union since the chairman has a relative who is a career firefighter. A member who is prohibited from participating in a matter should avoid being present during the hearing. However, the chairman may be present and may dictate the amount of time available to any speakers, including firefighters who have comments about the union contract impasse, during the invitational portion of the public hearing. This latter activity is administrative or ministerial in nature and is not prohibited. §§3-101(a); 3-102.
A former employee may participate in the same matters for a private employer where, as a county employee, the employee exercised substantial responsibility as to those matters. In this particular case, the Ethics Commission concluded that the county's interests would not be adversely affected by the former employee's participation. For this reason, the commission waived the prohibition that otherwise limits a former employee in this way. §3-109.
A member of the Agriculture Preservation Advisory Board may not continue to sit on the board after the member submits an application, or has an application approved, to include the member's property in the Agriculture Land Preservation Program, since the board has significant continuing authority over the properties in the program. (After this opinion was issued, legislation was enacted to permit members of the board to continue to serve even if they participate in the Agricultural Land Preservation Program). §§3-101; 3-105(b)(1).
The Severn River Commission is at least in part, a county commission whose county appointed members are "employees" subject to the Ethics Law. Members who are also officers of a private entity, may not represent that entity in seeking grants before the Severn River Commission, or officially participate as commission members in reviewing any grants that may be awarded to the private entity. §§3-101, 3-104, 3-105.
A member of the County Council may not accept a year's worth of free movie passes for two, sent as a thank you from a movie theatre chain, for attending a ribbon cutting ceremony. The donor is probably a controlled donor, and the gift is of more than a nominal value, so it may not be accepted. Also, acceptance of this gift as thanks for attending a ceremony, would constitute a misuse of the office for personal gain. §§3-106(b); 3-104.
An employee who is organizing an employees' golf tournament may not accept the gift of golf shirts for the participants from a controlled donor. The tournament organizer is in a position of authority over the donor, and the gift appears designed to impair the organizer's independent and impartial judgment with respect to the donor. §3-106(c).
A member of the County Council may not accept the gift of a charter fishing trip from a controlled donor since the gift exceeds the "nominal value" exception to the gift prohibition. §3-106.
The County Executive may accept free air fare from an airline company since it is not a controlled donor, and since the gift is received in an official capacity and not for private gain. The County Executive may accept reasonable trip expenses from the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, a controlled donor, if the expenses are paid to attend a conference, meeting, or other function where the county executive will be participating in a speaking engagement. Since the whole trip is designed to showcase the merits of Anne Arundel County, and since the County Executive will be speaking at various functions, to numerous groups, the gift of expenses may be accepted. §§3-104; 3-106.
A member of the County Council may not participate or vote as to those portions of the General Development Plan covering areas set forth in the opinion that would affect the council member's property interests. However, as to those portions of the plan that may affect the member's interest, the Ethics Commission will defer to the member's statement that the member may participate in the legislation fairly, objectively, and in the public interest. §§3-102(b)(2)(ii); (iv).
An employee may not accept a door prize from a controlled donor at an event sponsored by the controlled donor, if the door prize exceeds a nominal value, even if the employee purchased the ticket to attend the event. §3-106(b).
An employee of an Administrative Hearing Board may accept an unsolicited contribution toward a sports trip for the employee's child, from a lawyer who represents clients before the hearing board. The lawyer is not a controlled donor, and the lawyer learned about the sports trip from a newspaper article, not from the employee. §§3-104; 3-106.
A member of the County Council may not accept the offer by a cable television franchisee to film a five minute prepared interview for local broadcast over a major network or over a local origination channel. The cable television franchisee is a controlled donor subject to the regulation of the county council and involved in contract negotiations with the county council. The gift, worth more than a nominal value, could reasonably be perceived as being designed to impair the impartial judgment of the council member. §§3-106; 1-101(l); 1-102; 3-102(a) and (b)(2)(iii).
A County Council member may not vote on the rezoning of property in the neighborhood of that member's commercial property. "Neighborhood" can best be defined in any specific case, by the Office of Planning and Zoning. §3-102.
An employee may not sell items for personal profit in the workplace. §3-104(a).
A representative of a lobbying organization need not register to lobby unless that representative is personally engaged in lobbying activities that require registration.
The lawyer for the Personnel Board may represent private clients before other county regulatory boards because there is no connection between those boards and the Personnel Board, and because the lawyer to the Personnel Board does not make decisions as to the credibility of county witnesses. §3-105. (revised by letter dated October 23, 2003, based on newly amended Ethics Law, Bill 38-03, §5-104(a)(1).)
An employee may serve as the president of a parent-teacher organization, but may not represent that organization in any matters in which the county has a potentially adversarial or competitive interest, including building projects, rezoning matters, or other matters that would come before the employee's agency. §§3-105(b), (c); 3-101(a)(2)(iii).
An employee may not purchase stock in a company that is a vendor with the employee's agency and is subject to the authority of the agency, in the circumstances described in the opinion. §3-105(b)(1).
A member of the County Council may not participate in legislation involving LOSAP, 508 funds, or staffing and equipment of fire companies, where that member's relative is a career fighter. (Subsequently modified in part by IO-00-105). §§3-101; 3-102.
A department may accept a gift from a vendor with the department, since the gift was unsolicited, was intended to promote the public purposes of the department, and to benefit the public as opposed to individual employees. §3-106.
Employees of a county department may accept a gift from a friend of one of the employees, as long as the donor does not do business in the county. If the donor does business in the county, the donor would be a controlled donor, subject to the authority of the recipient employees. §3-106.
An employee who is a candidate for elective office need not report tickets to political fund raisers as gifts on a financial disclosure statement, because "in kind contributions" are required to be reported on a Campaign Fund Report, and are therefore exempt from coverage under the Public Ethics Law. If the recipient is not a candidate, the tickets would be a gift and may have to be disclosed under certain circumstances set forth in the opinion. §4-104(e)(2)(ii).
Employees of the county may serve on the advisory board of a private corporation to provide the board with information about the housing needs of the county.
An elected official may not accept a gift of tickets to a cultural event in the county from a controlled donor who is presently in contract negotiations with the official's agency. Although this type of gift is generally permitted as an exception to the general gift prohibition, the existence of pending contract negotiations are an objective factor that create a reasonable appearance that the gift is designed to impair the impartial judgment of the recipient. §3-106(c)(5).
An employee who is the president of a private organization may participate personally in its fund raising solicitation as long as the employee does not specifically target for solicitation, vendors, contractors, or other entities that are subject to the regulation of the employee's agency. §3-104(a).
Members of the County Council may accept a gift of nominal value from a controlled donor where the only matters pending before the council involving the donor are non-discretionary and ministerial in nature. §§3-106(c)(2) and (3).
An employee may participate in a matter involving a person with whom the employee formerly had a contractual relationship, since that relationship has been severed. The employee may participate in the matter even if the employee and the person involved in the matter are casual acquaintances. However, if the social relationship is one of close friendship, the employee should consider the appearance of a conflict that the employee's participation may create in this circumstance. §3-101.
An employee may engage in secondary employment using skills and training learned in part as a county employee, if the skills and training were acquired originally prior to the employee's service with the county, and if the outside work does not consist of work that the employee would normally undertake as part of the employee's official duties. §3-104(a).
Career firefighters may assist the volunteer firefighters in fund raising activities, subject to the restrictions set forth in the opinion, and with the approval of the administration of the fire department.
Employees of the county may serve on the United Way Community Partnership Board since this board is not an operational or management board, and since there are no competing or adversarial interests of the county in matters of concern to the organization. §§3-105(c); 3-104(a).
An employee may accept secondary employment with a lobbying group since the lobbying group's activities have no connection with Anne Arundel County. §3-105.
An employee may not accept a gratuity for participating in a market research survey directed at government employees that participate in certain types of work. §3-104(a).
A council member may participate in legislation affecting the pensions and pay scales of most county employees, providing that the member does not participate in those portions of the bills that deal with matters of specific concern to the interests of the member's relative who is also an employee.
A member of the County Council may not vote on legislation affecting the interests of a spouse who works in a county agency; if it can be shown that legislation that affects the department does not affect the spouse's interests, the member may participate in the legislation. §3-102.
An employee's right to participate in political activity is protected by state law, and does not generally raise issues under the Public Ethics Law.
An employee may invite lobbyists to join the employee at an employees' golf tournament at their own expense without violating the gift solicitation provision, as long as their is no charitable donation that is included in the cost. §3-106(a).
A county employee may serve as the president of a volunteer fire company since the fire company is not involved in any contractual or regulatory matters within the jurisdiction of the employee's agency. The employee may not represent the fire company in any matters that may be competitive with, or adversarial to the county's interests. §3-105(c)(1).
A County Council member may accept a complimentary ticket to a cultural event from a controlled donor in the circumstances described, as an exception to the general prohibition on accepting gifts. §3-106(c).
A County Council member may participate in legislation affecting all employees except that the member may not participate in that portion of the bill that affects the particular interests of a family member. §3-102.
An employee may not lend the employee's name and official title to a private entity as the honorary chairperson for a charitable fund raising event, although the employee may participate personally, without using the employee's job title. §3-104(a).
An employee may be assigned to work as the campaign coordinator for the annual United Way campaign.
A member of the County Council may participate in legislation since stock holdings in an entity affected by the legislation are minimal. §3-102.
An employee whose county job involves educating certain groups of citizens about available services, may not accept as secondary employment, a job with a private entity to perform substantially the same services for the same constituency. §§3-104; 3-105.
An employee may participate in the state or county Agricultural Land Preservation Program, since the employee does not participate in an official capacity in any matters that involve the program.
An agency may provide the name of a specific commercial service provider to callers in need of that service, in order to free up the agency's resources and personnel for more urgent types of situations. However, the agency must take affirmative steps, illustrated in the opinion, to avoid even the appearance that the agency endorses or favors the named provider over its competitors. §3-104(a).
An employee may not solicit donations from local businesses to give as awards to county employees in recognition of good work or attendance. A county employee may not solicit gifts unless the solicitation is conducted pursuant to an approved county program for the benefit of county citizens. §3-106(a).
An employee attending a conference may accept a modestly valued meal/beverage from a donor who does business with the county as an exception to the general gift prohibition. The employee may only accept a door prize offered at the conference by a controlled donor, if the value of the prize does not exceed $25. §§3-106(c)(1); (c)(3).
An agency may accept a gift from outside sources if the agency did not solicit the gift, and if the gift will benefit the citizens of the county, and not individual employees. §3-106.
An employee who serves as the liaison to a county commission may engage in secondary employment for the chairperson of the commission, promoting the sale of products by the chairperson's business entity, since the activities will not have an impact on the county. §3-105.
There are no ethics issues involved in the question of whether a private entity that is regulated by an agency may fund the services of a temporary clerical position in that agency for the specific purposes and under the conditions set forth in the opinion.
Permitting a private entity that supports a government agency to use the logo of that agency on its letterhead would create the appearance of a conflict of interest, particularly where the letterhead will be used in fund raising solicitations. Permitting the use of the logo may appear to be an endorsement of the entity by the agency, in violation of §3-104(a).
An employee may attend a holiday party held by an entity that contracts with the employee's agency, under the exception to the general gift prohibition for occasional meals and beverages of modest value, in the absence of any specific factors indicating a design to impair the recipient employee's judgment. §3-106.
A police officer who is also in law school may engage in secondary employment with a local attorney, subject to the limitations set forth in the opinion.
A lawyer who practices in the area of disability law may be appointed to sit on the Commission on Disability Issues, for the reasons stated in the opinion. §3-105.
An employee whose agency has regulatory authority over a private, non-profit entity, may serve on the entity's board of directors only in an ex officio capacity, and only under certain conditions set forth in the opinion and in advisory opinions 99-197 and 99-175. §3-105(b)(1).
A county employee may be appointed to serve on the Planning Advisory Board since service on that board would not constitute secondary employment, according to the reasoning set forth in advisory opinion 98-154.
An employee may accept a fee from a private entity in exchange for advertising for that entity on the employee's privately owned race car.