Does it violate the Ethics Code for a County employee and a County official, as defined by the Ethics Code, who work in different departments, and who have no interplay or interaction between their County jobs, to be partners and operate a business unrelated to the County?
No. There is no violation of the Ethics Code for a County employee and a County official, as defined by the Ethics Code, who work in different departments, and who have no interplay or interaction between their County jobs, to be partners and operate a business unrelated to the County.
The County employee and County official requesting this opinion wish to be partners and operate a business venture together. The business venture is unrelated to any County activities. The County employee and County official work in different departments at the County, and have no interplay or interaction between their County jobs. The County employee and County official would be working at their business only on non-County time. No county employees who they supervise would work in their business.
In Advisory Opinion 94-05 (July 26, 1994), the Commission held that "[w]ithout some nexus between a County officials 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".1 Accordingly, the Commission finds that there is no violation of the Ethics Code for the County employee and County official to undertake their business venture, provided no other County employee or official works, or is involved with, their business venture. The Commission, does recommend, however, that should the County employee and official wish to hire any County employees or officials, or involve them in their business venture, in any way, they should first seek guidance from the Ethics Commission, since a conflict of interest or an appearance of impropriety might exist under such other circumstances. The Commission also recommends that, should the County employee's or official's job responsibilities with the County change, the County employee and County official should contact the Commission for advise as to whether their new responsibilities create a conflict or appearance of impropriety.
Finally, this opinion establishes the minimum that is expected and required under the Ethics Code. Each department, board or other unit of County government is free to impose greater restrictions on its officials and employees, such as an absolute ban. It does not usurp a director, department head, or board's authority to establish a more restrictive rule as part of its own policy. Advisory Opinion 91-07 revised and reissued December 9, 1992; Advisory Opinion 98-05, October 6, 1998.
BY AND FOR THE NEW CASTLE COUNTY ETHICS COMMISSION ON JANUARY 5, 1999.
David J.J. Facciolo, Chairperson
1New Castle county Ethics Code, section 2-172, of the Code, defines "conflict of interest", in part, as:
Use by a county official or county employee of the authority of his or her office or employment or any confidential information received through his or her holding county office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself or herself, a member of his or her immediate family or a business with which he or she is associated.
Section 2-172 of the Code also defines "appearance of impropriety" as:
The conduct of a county official or county employee which does not constitute a conflict of interest but 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.