Bridgeport’s Ethics Commission is a toothless tiger. Mayor Joe Ganim’s proposal for an Office of Government Accountability adds little more to the table for an independent watchdog of city officials. Rather than the city wrangling over rhetoric, why not support a state measure that would monitor the conduct of municipal officials? OIB asked Carol Carson, executive director of the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, about placing a code of ethics for municipalities under its umbrella. She shares that’s something her office has been working on including a legislative proposal that has not come out of a key committee. She says her office supports a pilot program for Bridgeport “provided we receive appropriate, though minimal, funding.”
Carson shares her observations:
For several years, the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board, the governing Board of the Office of State Ethics, has made municipal ethics its number one priority.
I’ve attached our most recent proposal which calls for adding a section to the Code of Ethics, which currently has four sections (State Employees and Public Officials, Lobbyists, Lobbying: Miscellaneous Provisions, and Ethical Considerations Concerning Bidding and State Contracts). This bill did not come out of the GAE committee.
Here is a brief description of each section:
Section 1. Provides for definitions relevant to the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials, including the definition of “municipal employee,” “municipal official,” “municipality,” and “special district.”
Section 2. Allows existing municipal ethics boards to complete pending matters that have been submitted for consideration and disposition prior to January 1, 2017.
Section 3. Articulates the duties and authority of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board with respect to the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials, including issuance of advisory opinions and management of annual ethics trainings.
Section 4. Provides for the Board’s authority to adopt regulations for purposes of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials.
Section 5. Provides for investigation of complaints and establishes procedures involving probable hearings and board hearings to determine whether the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials has been violated. The provision is modeled on the Code of Ethics for Public Officials (Ethics Code for State Officials).
Section 6. Provides for confidentiality of complaints and establishes procedures for disposition of complaints when the finding of no probable cause is made. The provision is modeled on the Code of Ethics for Public Officials (Ethics Code for State Officials).
Section 7. Extends various prohibited activities to municipal employees and officials, including the prohibition on entering into contracts valued at five hundred dollars or more with the municipality in which the employee or official serves, unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process. Municipal employees and officials may represent themselves in their own interest or the individual interest of an immediate family member before any municipal board. Municipal officials may be employed by private persons who are in the business or representing others before the municipal board on which such official serves, provided the official shall take no part in any matter involving any such municipal board and shall not receive compensation from any such matter.
Section 8. Extends the revolving-door restrictions to municipal employees and officials, including one-year prohibition on post-municipal employment with an entity that has been a recipient of a municipal contract valued at $25,000 if the restricted employee or official was substantially involved in the negotiation, proposal or award of such contract.
Section 9. Permits for donation of goods or services to municipality.
Section 10. Extends the substantial conflict of interest provision to municipal employees and officials.
Section 11. Extends the potential conflict of interest provision to municipal employees and officials.
Section 12. Extends the provision regarding the establishment and financial management of a legal defense fund to municipal employees and officials.
Section 13. Extends various prohibited activities to municipal consultants and independent contractors.
Section 14. Provides for the appeal process of any final decision of the Board.
Section 15. Articulates the authority of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board after finding of a violation of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials.
Section 16. Provides for penalties that may be imposed for violation of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials and articulates disciplinary powers of municipal legislative bodies, boards, commissions, councils and departments.
Sections 17-18. Contain technical amendments to § 1-92 and subsection (d) of § 1-80 of the general statutes.