Conflict of Interest
County employees serve the citizens of the county.
When an employee conducts the county’s business, the employee is supposed to act with impartial and independent judgment. A conflict of interest occurs when an employee has private interests, either personal or financial, that may be affected by the employee’s official actions. Those interests may impair the employee’s ability to conduct the county’s business with impartial and independent judgment. The citizens of the county have a right to trust that a county government employee will conduct the county’s business without any conflicts of interest. The Public Ethics Law was designed to help assure the public that the impartial and independent judgment of county employees will be maintained. There are eleven conflicts of interest provisions in the ethics law, summarized below. (Please note that even where the law generally prohibits certain activities, exceptions may be permitted under certain circumstances. An employee should contact the ethics commission for guidance before participating in any matter that may be prohibited by the following conflict of interest provisions.)
§7-5-101. Restrictions on participation. This section prohibits an employee from participating in any matter, except for a “non-discretionary administrative duty that does not affect the disposition or decision with respect to that matter involved”, if the employee, or one of the employee’s “qualifying relatives” has an interest in the matter.
§7-5-102. Employment or financial interests; general restriction. This section restricts the types of compensated secondary employment in which county employees may engage. For example, an employee may not be employed by, or have a contract with any entity that contracts with the employee’s governmental unit or that is subject to the authority of the employee or the employee’s governmental unit. In general, an employee may not hold any secondary employment relationship that “would impair the impartiality or independent judgment of the employee”.
§7-5-103. Employment restriction - entities contracting with the County. This section prohibits an employee from being employed by, or contracting with any entity that has a contract with the county if the duties of the employee include matters that relate to or affect the contract, and if the contract binds the county to pay more than $1000.
§7-5-104. Employment restriction; representation or assistance. This section prohibits an employee from representing or assisting any person before any governmental unit or county employee, or in any matter in which the county has an interest. An exception permits non-elected or non-appointed employees to represent, without compensation, another employee in an “employment related matter”.
§7-5-105. Representation by former employees. This section limits compensated participation by a former employee in any matter in which the former employee participated significantly, or acquired information not generally available to the public.
§7-5-106. Solicitation or acceptance of gifts or honoraria. This section prohibits employees from soliciting gifts under most circumstances. The provision also limits the types of gifts that an employee may accept from a donor who:
- Does or seeks to do business with the county
- Is engaged in activities that are regulated or controlled by the county
- Has financial interests that may be substantially and materially affected, in a manner distinguishable from the public generally, by the performance or nonperformance of any official duty of the employee
- Is a lobbyist with respect to matters within the jurisdiction of the employee
§7-5-107. Use of prestige of office or position. This section prohibits an employee from intentionally using the prestige, title, or authority of the employee’s office or position for the employee’s private gain or the gain of another.
§7-5-108. Disclosure of confidential information. This section prohibits an employee or a former employee from using or disclosing confidential information for the employee’s own economic benefit or the economic benefit of another person.
§7-5-109. County executive. This section prohibits participation by the county executive in official actions as to any matter in which the county executive or a “qualifying relative” of the county executive has an interest in the matter.
§7-5-110. Legislative acts of members of County Council. This section limits participation by a member of the county council in legislative activity as to any matter if the council member or a qualifying relative of the council member has an interest in the matter.