Whether any proposed aspect of a joint venture between the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce ("Chamber") and County Pride, (whose board includes County officials and employees), entered into for purposes of sponsoring the Second Annual County Fair, would violate the New Castle County Ethics Code ("Ethics Code").
County Pride is not an entity subject to the Code. Therefore, a joint venture between County Pride and the Chamber is not restricted by the Ethics Code. However, County Pride's board includes County officials and employees who are subject to the Ethics Code.1 The potential for an appearance of impropriety exists whenever a County official or employee on County Pride's board is required to make a decision or take an action, in his or her capacity as a County official or employee, which involves the Chamber. The provisions of the Code must be applied as these circumstances arise.
County Pride is a nonprofit Sec. 501(c)(3) corporation organized in 1990 for the purpose of marketing special events in New Castle County. Its activities are funded without the use of tax dollars. County Pride is not an entity whose activities are restricted by the Ethics Code. Therefore, the nature of County Pride's joint venture with the Chamber is not restricted by the Ethics Code.2
However, County officials and employees who sit on County Pride's board are subject to the Ethics Code. While there is no appearance of impropriety created merely by virtue of a County official or employee's membership on County Pride's board, the potential for an appearance of impropriety arises whenever such an official or employee must make a decision or take an action in his or her capacity as a County official or employee which concerns the Chamber. As these circumstances arise, the individual official or employee involved must apply the provisions of the Ethics Code and take appropriate action, e. g., recusal from decision or action involving the Chamber, abstention from voting, disclosure of the relationship.3
June 12, 1992
1 These are defined terms under the Ethics Code. See Sec. 2-30.1. Definitions. "County employee" and "County official." 2 For this reason, the specific proposed nature of the joint venture is not relevant and therefore, is not set forth in this opinion. 3See Advisory Opinion 91-02, ruling that where a County official who, in the discharge of his official duties may be required to vote on a matter which would give rise to an appearance of impropriety, that official should follow the procedure set forth under Sec. 2-30.2(f) for voting conflicts, i.e., abstain from voting and, prior to the vote being taken, publicly announce and disclose the nature of the relationship giving rise to the appearance of impropriety.