Ethics Law, Ethics Commission
Position In Brief: 

 Action of Support:

  • Ethics Law provides essential tools to ensure that the judgment of public officials in impartial and independent.
  • Ethics Law should set minimum standards related to conflict of interest, require financial disclosure, and avoid the appearance of improper influence.
  • The powers and duties of the Ethics Commission should be clearly defined.
Position History: 

Adopted in 1988, amended in 1994 and 2015.

 Statement of Position:

  1. An essential responsibility for enabling the public trust resides in the system of government itself in promoting, monitoring and ensuring the impartial and independent judgment of public officials.
  2. Ethics Law should:
    • Set minimum standards of conduct related to conflict of interest;
    • Require public officials to disclose their financial affairs;
    • Be prefaced by a statement of policy;
    • Clearly define the powers and duties of the Ethics Commission;
    • Set clear standards;
    • Have enforcement powers.
  3. Conflict-Of-Interest Regulations should:
    • Clearly apply to direct financial gain;
    • Avoid the actual as well as the appearance of improper influence;
    • Regulations should apply to indirect relationships to the extent necessary to realize the intent of the Ethics Law;
    • Require that appointing bodies avoid the nomination of individuals where known conflict of interest exist and make them responsible for the quality of their appointments.

       4.   Financial disclosure is an essential tool for monitoring potential conflicts of interest:

    • Elected officials, division directors and department heads should provide full disclosure, i.e., gifts, interests in real property, corporations, businesses (doing or not doing business with entity), employment and liabilities owned to persons doing business with entity.
    • Members of boards and commissions, as well as those key employees listed in the current Ethics Law should provide simple disclosure, i.e., gifts, interests (real property and businesses) and employment.
    • Disclosure for all employees is not recommended.

    5. Lobbying disclosure provides the public’s right to know if expenditures are made to influence public policy and is a tool for monitoring potential conflict of interest.

    6.Ethics Commission is responsible for the effective implementation and enforcement of the Ethics Law. An effectively administered Ethics Commission should:

    • Have an adequate staff;
    • Have an office arranged to ensure confidentiality and the efficient maintenance of records;
    • Schedule meetings on a regular basis, sufficient to fully perform all duties of the commission;
    • Provide orientation for its members as well as encourage participation in the state-supported training sessions;
    • Have the funding to support an effective operation.

    7.  The powers and duties of an Ethics Commission should include but not be limited to:

    • Investigating only written, signed complaints alleging violations of the Ethics Law;
    • Initiating investigations upon the signed complaint of a member of the Commission;
    • Providing advisory opinions to persons subject to the Ethics Law;
    • Receiving and reviewing disclosure statements for compliance with provisions and   notifying officials and employees of any omissions;                                  
    • Developing an effective information program on the purpose and application of the Ethics Law for   employees, officials, members of boards and commissions and the public;                                                                                              
    • Issuing an annual report to government officials and the public which summarizes its activities and issues;
    • Periodically evaluating the adequacy of the Ethics Law and making recommendations for change.

    8. Vacancies on boards and commissions should be publicly announced to broaden public participation and to avoid potential conflict of interest.

    League to which this content belongs: 
    Frederick County