Whether a County official or employee covered by the New Castle County Ethics Code1 may operate a part-time business which is unrelated to his position with and duties on behalf of the County.
Yes. Since there is no relationship between his position with and duties on behalf of the County and the part-time business he proposes to operate, there is no ethical prohibition barring the part-time activity.
The person requesting this opinion proposes to operate certain part-time businesses, none of which has any relationship to his position with or his duties on behalf of the County.
Therefore, this person's involvement in the proposed part-time ventures will not give rise to a conflict of interest2 or an appearance of impropriety.3 Without some nexus between a County official or employee's part-time business activities and his or her official position and duties, no conflict of interest, appearance of impropriety or other ethical issue arises.
This situation should be distinguished from that presented in Advisory Opinion 93-04 concerning a New Castle County assessor whose job duties include valuation of real property for purposes of calculating ad valorem tax owed by property owners to the County. The Ethics Commission concluded that part-time work as a real estate agent would give rise to an appearance of impropriety.4
The Ethics Commission urges any County official or employee covered by the Ethics Code to seek the Commission's opinion as to whether any proposed part-time employment or business venture would give rise to an ethical problem. In each instance, the Commission must examine the nature of the outside employment or business and its relationship, if any, to the County official or employee's position or duties. Thus, each matter must be considered on a case by case basis.
Without some nexus between a County official or employee's part-time business activities and his or her official position and duties, no conflict of interest, appearance of impropriety or other ethical issue arises.
L. Susan Faw, Ethics Counsel
July 26, 1994
1 Section 2-30.1 identifies those "County officials" and "County employees" who are subject to the Ethics Code.
2 Section 2-30.2. (a) prohibits persons covered by the Ethics Code from engaging in conduct constituting a "conflict of interest", defined as "[u]se by a county official or county employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding county office or employment for the private pecuniary gain of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he is associated." Section 2-30.1. Definitions.
3 Section 2-30.2.(g) requires persons covered by the Ethics Code to avoid an "appearance of impropriety", defined as conduct "which undermines the public confidence in the impartiality of a governmental body with which a county official or employee is or has been associated, by creating an appearance that the decisions or actions of the county official, county employee or the governmental body are influenced by factors other than the merits." Section 2-30.1. Definitions.
4 The Commission stated: "The close relationship between assessing property for County tax purposes and assisting prospective buyers and sellers in the acquisition and sale of property creates the appearance that the assessors in the Assessment Division are influenced by factors extraneous to the merits, e.g., whether the rate at which a particular parcel of property is assessed is consistent with the assessor/realtor's private client's interests."