May a County employee who works in the complaints office apply for, and if qualified, receive a County administered home repair loan?1
There is no violation of the New Castle County Ethics Code for an employee who works in the complaints office to apply for, and if qualified, receive a County administered home repair loan.
The requesting party is a County employee, employed in the complaints office. She wishes to apply for, and if granted, accept a Delaware State Housing Authority loan. The Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program (hereinafter "HRLP") which she wishes to apply for provides low interest housing rehabilitation loans to individuals based upon income criteria and credit worthiness. Although they are State funded, with the State determining eligibility, the HRLP loans are administered through New Castle County's Community Services Department. New Castle County obtains certain information, such as a credit report and a deed search, holds the settlement and inspects the work performed under the loan.. The employee seeking the loan has no involvement with the loan process, nor does she have any supervisory authority over any individuals involved in the program.
In Advisory Opinion 92-08, (December 4, 1992), the Ethics Commission ruled that the New Castle County Department of Community Development and Housing could grant a home rehabilitation loan to a homeowner who satisfies all the requirements of an established loan program, but who is employed by the County. The Commission finds that the facts presented in the present request are similar to the facts presented in Advisory Opinion 92-08, with no distinguishing facts which would remove it from the scope of this earlier opinion. Therefore, the Commission finds there would be no conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety2, and accordingly, no violation of the Ethics Code, if the requesting party were to apply for, and if determined qualified, to accept a HRLP loan.
BY AND FOR THE NEW CASTLE COUNTY ETHICS COMMISSION ON NOVEMBER 9, 1999.
David J.J. Facciolo, Chair
1Due to the pendancy of Resolution 99-051 (adopted 11/9/99), Commissioner West did not vote on this decision.
2Section 2-82 of the Ethics Code, as amended, defines "conflict of interest" and "appearance of impropriety" as follows:
"Conflict of interest means 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. . ."
"Appearance of impropriety means 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 officer 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."