May a County employee enter into a contract with the County to perform short-term, seasonal employment, if the value of the contract is over $500?
Yes. A County employee may enter into a contract with the County to perform short-term, seasonal employment, even though the value of the contract is over $500 by a de minimis amount, if there is public notice of the position and competitive bidding available. In addition, in this instance, the County employee works for a department, other than the one from which the contract originates, and the County employee does not report to, and is not under the supervision of, the person choosing or monitoring the recipient of the contract, thereby eliminating any conflict of interest, appearance of impropriety, or other Ethics Code violation.
A County department seeks an individual to perform short-term, seasonal employment, approximately two (2) hours per week, on a contractual basis. The value of the contract is over $500 by a de minimis amount. The position was posted at public places where one would reasonably anticipate interested persons would likely see. The only interested person for the position is the requesting party who is a County employee from a different department. The County employee does not report to, and is not under the supervision of, the employee charged with the responsibility of choosing or monitoring the contract.
Section 2-83(c) of the Ethics Code sets forth the contract and bid restrictions of the Ethics Code. This section states, in significant part:
Sec. 2-83(c): Restrictions on contracting with the county - No county official or county employee or his or her spouse or child or any business with which the county official or county employee or his or her spouse or child is associated or who has a legal or equitable ownership of more than 5% (more than 1% in the case of a corporation whose stock is regularly traded on an established securities market) shall enter into any contract with the county made or let after public notice and competitive bidding. Such notice and bidding requirements shall not apply to contracts not involving more than $500 per year if the terms of such contract reflect arms' length negotiations.
In the present instance, the contractual position which the County employee wishes to attain was publicly posted at areas where one would anticipate interested persons would likely see. No one expressed interest in the position, other than the requesting party. Accordingly, given the nature of the position, the Commission finds that the notice and bid restrictions of Section 2-83(c), in this particular instance, have been met.
In addition to the notice and bid restrictions, it is imperative to ensure that no other provision of the Ethics Code is violated by the award of this contract, including restrictions on behavior constituting a conflict of interest or an appearance of impropriety1. In this instance, the requesting party works in a different department, does not report to, and is not supervised by the employee charged with choosing or monitoring the recipient of the contract.
Accordingly, the Commission finds that, under the circumstances presented, there is no violation of the Ethics Code for the requesting party to be awarded the contract and perform part-time, seasonal work for the County.
BY AND FOR THE NEW CASTLE COUNTY ETHICS COMMISSION ON DECEMBER 15, 2000.
David J.J. Facciolo, Chairperson
1 The provision of the Ethics Code dealing with conflict of interests, Section 2-83(a)(l), states, in significant part:
No county employee or county official shall use 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 personal or private benefit of himself or herself, a member of his or her immediate family or a business with which he or she is associated . . .
The provision of the Ethics Code dealing with appearances of impropriety, Section 2-84(a), states:
No county employee or county official shall engage in conduct which, while not constituting a violation of section 2-83(a)(1), undermines the public confidence in the impartiality of a governmental body with which the county employee or county official is or has been associated by creating an appearance that the decisions or actions of the county employee, county official or governmental body are influenced by factors other than the merits.