[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Colonie 11-29-1990 by L.L. No. 13-1990. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Defense and indemnification of officers and employees — See Ch. 14.
Editor's Note: This local law also repealed former Ch. 17, Ethics, Code of, adopted 5-28-1970 by L.L. No. 5-1970.
This chapter shall be known as the "Code of Ethics of the Town of Colonie."
The proper administration of the government of the Town of Colonie requires its officials and employees, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, to be independent, impartial and free from conflicts of interest in fulfilling their public responsibilities so that the public will have confidence in the integrity of its Town government. Therefore, the public interest requires that this Code of Ethics be adopted as a standard of conduct, in addition to the standards prescribed in Article 18 of the General Municipal Law, for the officials and employees of the Town of Colonie.
This Code of Ethics represents a balancing of the need for eliminating real conflicts of interest with the recognition that membership in voluntary organizations devoted to public service is a laudable endeavor which should not be discouraged.
This chapter shall be given its broadest possible interpretation under law so as to implement its stated purpose.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- BUSINESS ACTIVITIES
- Any private interest, activity or transaction.
- Any candidate for one of the Town-wide elective offices set forth in Town Law § 20, Subdivision 1(a), who receives the nomination of a political party; files a designating petition for nomination at a primary election; seeks independent nomination and who obtains the requisite number of signatures on an independent nominating petition as required by Election Law § 6-142, Subdivision 2; or receives the designation of a committee to fill vacancies pursuant to Election Law §§ 6-148 and 6-152. The terms "party," "designation," "primary election," "nomination" and "independent nomination," as used herein, shall have the same meanings as those contained in Election Law §§ 1-104 and 6-140.
- CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION
- Any data acquired through the course of employment or public office with the Town of Colonie that is protected from disclosure by law or that poses a conflict of interest.
- CONFLICT OF INTEREST
- Includes any action or omission which is in conflict or gives the appearance of conflict with the performance of official Town business or government.
- An artificial person or being endowed by law with the capacity of perpetual succession and shall include corporations organized as public, private, eleemosynary, civil, domestic, foreign, close, open, municipal and not-for-profit institutions.
- Includes all persons, other than seasonal employees, who are not officials but whose salaries are paid in whole or in part by the Town of Colonie.
- Includes a spouse and unemancipated minor children residing in the same household with their parents.
- Includes every officer who is elected by the electors of the Town of Colonie, every Town officer as defined in the Town Law, all other Town officials and members of committees or boards of the Town of Colonie created by virtue of the Town Law and appointed by the Town Board, whether compensated or uncompensated.
- PROFESSIONAL LICENSE
- A privilege granted by the State of New York to conduct an occupation or trade.
- PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER
- Includes every officer and employee whose primary responsibility in serving the Town of Colonie is ensuring and promoting the safety of the residents of the Town of Colonie.
- A spouse, child, stepchild, stepparent or any person who is a direct descendent of the reporting Town official or employee or of the reporting Town official's or employee's spouse.
- SEASONAL EMPLOYEE
- Any employee holding a position with the Town of Colonie which is performed for a period of time shorter than a full year, and said position may recur in each successive year.
- The husband or wife of the reporting individual, unless living separate and apart from the reporting individual with the intention of terminating the marriage or providing for permanent separation or unless separated pursuant to:
No official or employee shall engage in any action which constitutes or gives the appearance of being a conflict of interest with the performance of his or her official duties. An official or employee shall be deemed to have a conflict of interest if:
The person willfully engages in any business activity or professional activity or shall have a financial or other private interest, direct or indirect, or incurs any obligation of any nature which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties, unless such official or employee abstains from voting or otherwise officially acting with respect to the subject matters affected.
The person receives or has any financial interest in any sale to or by the Town of any service or property when such financial interest was received with the knowledge that the Town intended to purchase such property or obtain such service, unless such official or employee abstains from voting or otherwise officially acting with respect to the subject matters affected.
The person uses or attempts to use his or her official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or herself or others, including members of his or her family.
The person engages in or accepts private employment or engages in any business transaction or professional activity or makes any investment which will impair his or her independence of judgment in the exercise of his or her official duties or will interfere in any manner whatsoever with the discharge of his or her official duties.
The person represents any private interest before any Town agency or in any litigation in which the Town of Colonie is a party or complainant.
The person directly or indirectly solicits any gift or accepts or receives any gift or favor, whether in the form of money, services, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, thing or promise, or any other form, from any person, firm or corporation as an inducement or to effect improperly the performance of the official duties or decision of such official or employee.
A member of the Town Board or the Town Clerk, Town Attorney or any other official has a financial or other private interest in any legislation or other matters coming before the Town Board and fails to disclose such interest and/or fails to abstain from voting and/or otherwise officially acting with regard thereto.
The foregoing acts are listed by way of example and are by no means to be deemed all-inclusive. Every official and employee of the Town of Colonie shall endeavor to pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that they are likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of their trust.
No official or other employee shall disclose, without proper authority, confidential information concerning the property or affairs of the Town of Colonie nor shall he or she use such information to advance the financial or other private interest of himself or herself or others.
No official or employee of the Town of Colonie shall accept employment or engage in any business or professional activity which will require him or her to disclose confidential information which he or she has gained by reason of his or her official position or authority.
Professionally licensed Town officials and employees. All Town officials and employees with professional licenses, as defined in § 17-3, are prohibited from exercising any discretion in any matter of Town interest which shall involve any person, firm or corporation which is a client of theirs or a client of their firm or has been a client within the immediate past two years, and they shall not have any interest in or accept compensation from any person, firm or corporation which has an interest in matters coming before any Town agency.
Town officials and employees authorized to conduct inspections and issue permits. All Town officials and employees with the authority to conduct inspections or issue permit approvals shall not engage in a business or have a financial interest in firms engaged in a business within the Town of Colonie where said business conducts, as a regular and significant part of its business, matters requiring inspections or permits.
Office of the Assessor. Neither the Assessor nor any employee in such Department shall engage in the real estate, construction, building contracting or building materials business or have a financial interest in firms engaging in such business within the Town of Colonie during the course of his or her employment by the Town.
No public safety officer shall have any interest in or be employed in the Town of Colonie by any company, corporation, partnership, association or individual for the purpose of providing private investigations, accident reconstruction, fire prevention, crime prevention or fire inspection or any other activity related to such public safety official's employment with the Town of Colonie except as provided in Subsection D(2) hereof.
The foregoing officials and employees are listed due to the unique nature of their offices and positions which, in turn, raise ethical conflicts unique to those offices and positions. This list is not to be deemed all-inclusive. Every Town of Colonie official and employee shall endeavor to pursue a course of conduct consistent with the spirit of this chapter as well as the actual provisions and strive to act so as not to raise suspicion among the public that they are likely to be engaged in activities that are in violation of their trust.
A local Board of Ethics, to be known as the "Town of Colonie Board of Ethics," is hereby established pursuant to Article 18 of the General Municipal Law, which Board shall have and exercise the powers and duties set forth in this section.
The Board of Ethics shall consist of three members appointed by the Town Board of the Town of Colonie to serve without compensation for terms of three years. The original members selected shall serve at staggered terms of three years, two years and one year. The members of the Board of Ethics should be qualified by temperament to carry out the duties of the Board of Ethics and, preferably, should have appropriate legal and/or financial background. In no event shall any employee and/or official of the Town be eligible for membership. Any vacancy occurring on the Board of Ethics shall be filled in the same manner as the member whose vacancy is being filled was appointed. A person appointed to fill a vacancy shall be appointed for the unexpired term of the member he/she succeeds.
Three members of the Board of Ethics shall constitute a quorum, and the Board shall have the power to act by majority vote of the total number of members of the Board.
Members of the Board may be removed by the Town Board for substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office or inability to discharge the powers or duties of office or violation of this chapter, after written notice and opportunity to reply.
The Town Attorney shall serve as counsel to the Board of Ethics, except in any matter where a conflict of interest may exist.
In addition to any other powers and duties specified by law, the Board of Ethics shall have the power and duty to:
[Amended 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993]
Administer and enforce all the provisions of this chapter.
Conduct any investigation necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. Pursuant to this power and duty, the Board of Ethics may administer oaths or affirmations, subpoena witnesses, compel their attendance and require production of any book or records which it may deem relevant or material.
Adopt, amend and rescind rules and regulations to govern procedure of the Board of Ethics. However, such rules and regulations or modifications thereto shall not be effective until adopted by the Town Board and filed in the Town Clerk's Office.
Make available the forms related to the financial disclosure requirements of this chapter which are on file in the office of the Town Clerk.
Determine, by title, which officials and employees shall be required to file with the Board of Ethics a long form financial disclosure statement as provided for in § 17-8 of this chapter. This determination shall be made in accordance with guidelines adopted by the Board of Ethics.
Review and inspect all financial disclosure statements filed with the Board to ascertain whether any person subject to the reporting requirements of this chapter has failed to file such a statement, has filed a deficient statement or has filed a statement which reveals a possible violation of this chapter.
Receive and hear all complaints alleging a violation(s) of this chapter upon the written request of any individual. This request must be signed by the individual complainant and must include their address. Upon receipt, a copy of such complaint shall be provided by the Board of Ethics to the Town Board.
Render advisory opinions on the requirements of this chapter. An opinion rendered by the Board, until and unless amended or revoked, shall be binding on the Board in any subsequent proceeding concerning the person who requested the opinion and who acted in good faith, unless material facts were omitted or misstated by the person in the request for an opinion. Such opinion may also be relied upon by such person and may be introduced and shall be a defense in any criminal or civil action. Such requests shall be confidential, but the Board may publish such opinions, provided that the name of the requesting person and other identifying details shall not be included in the publication.
If a person required to file a financial disclosure statement with the Board of Ethics has failed to file a disclosure statement or has filed a deficient statement, the Board shall notify the reporting person, in writing, state the failure to file or detail the deficiency, provide the person with a fifteen-day period to cure the deficiency and advise the person of the penalties for failure to comply with the reporting requirements.
If the Board of Ethics preliminarily finds on its own review of an ethics certification, a financial disclosure statement or pursuant to its review of a request for an advisory opinion that a possible violation of this chapter exists, the Board may provide the person(s) affected with a reasonable opportunity to cure such violation. Such a preliminary finding shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure. If under any other circumstances, such as through the filing and investigation of a complaint, the Board of Ethics determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of this chapter has occurred, it shall send a notice of reasonable cause to the reporting/applicable person; to the complainant, if any; and to the Town Board. Before any such reasonable cause finding shall be made, the Board of Ethics shall notify, in writing, the reporting/affected person as to the possible or alleged violation of this chapter and afford the affected/reporting person an opportunity to be heard as well as an opportunity to submit, in writing, a written response setting forth such information as said affected/reporting person deems relevant to the activities cited by the Board as a possible or alleged violation of this chapter.
Upon a determination of reasonable cause to believe that a violation of this chapter has occurred, the Board of Ethics may recommend that disciplinary action be taken. Such action shall be administered by the Town pursuant to the provisions of the Civil Service Law, applicable collective bargaining agreement or such other due process requirements which may be necessary for imposition of penalties.
Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, the only records of the Board of Ethics which shall be available for public inspection are:
[Amended 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993]
The information set forth in an annual statement of financial disclosure filed pursuant to this chapter, except any item of information redacted pursuant to § 17-8 of this chapter.
Notwithstanding the provision of Article 7 of the Public Officers Law, no meeting or proceeding, including any such proceeding contemplated under Subsection F(12) of § 17-7 of this chapter, shall be open to the public except as expressly provided otherwise by the Town Board.
[Amended 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993]
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, any person or persons aggrieved by a decision of the Board of Ethics may have the decision reviewed by the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the manner provided by law, provided that the same is instituted within 30 days after the decision is rendered and the affected/reporting person has been notified in writing of said decision.
[Amended 5-23-1991 by L.L. No. 4-1991; 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993; 11-18-2010 by L.L. No. 10-2010]
All Town of Colonie officials and employees shall file with the Town Board of Ethics a Town of Colonie ethics certification by January 31 of each year, commencing December 31, 1993. Additionally, all Town officials and employees who have been identified by the Board of Ethics pursuant to Subsection F(5) of § 17-7 of this chapter shall file a long form financial disclosure statement by January 31 of each year commencing December 31, 1993. Any Town of Colonie official or employee appointed by the Town Board after December 31, 1993, shall file with the Town Board of Ethics the applicable form(s) within 45 days after such appointment and no later than January 31 of each year thereafter. All candidates for the Town of Colonie elective offices shall file with the Town Board of Ethics a financial disclosure statement within 10 business days after:
The last day allowed by law for the filing of primary election designating petitions.
The last day allowed by law for the filing of independent nominating petitions.
The date of the meeting of the party committee at which they are nominated as applicable to the form of their candidacy.
The date of their designation by a committee to fill vacancies as a candidate pursuant to Election Law §§ 6-148 and 6-152.
Financial disclosure shall be set forth on the forms which are on file in the office of the Town Clerk.
Any Town of Colonie official, employee or candidate required to file a financial disclosure statement may request one or more items of information be redacted from his or her financial statement when said financial statement is made available to the public. Further, such official, employee or candidate may request an exemption from reporting one or more items of information pertaining to the reporting individual's spouse.
In order for the Board of Ethics to grant a request for redaction or exemption, the Board shall determine that the item or items of information to be redacted or exempted have no material bearing on the discharge of the reporting individual's official duties.
A request for redaction or exemption shall be set forth in a form which is on file in the office of the Town Clerk.
[Amended 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993; 11-18-2010 by L.L. No. 10-2010]
The Board of Ethics shall be empowered to grant extensions of time for filing the financial disclosure statements. In order for the Board of Ethics to grant a request for an extension of time to file the financial disclosure statement beyond the January 31 deadline, the Board shall find that there is justifiable cause for filing after the deadline or that application of the deadline will impose an undue hardship. A written request for extension of time shall be filed with the Board of Ethics on or before January 31.
Recognizing the need for professional integrity and the fact that various professional associations have adopted standards of conduct for their members, the Town of Colonie hereby requires that each official or employee who is affected by a professional Code of Ethics be bound, in addition to the within chapter, by their respective Codes of Ethics. Any conflict between the provisions of this chapter and a given official's or employee's professional code of conduct is to be resolved by the Board of Ethics pursuant to the provisions as set forth in § 17-7. However, the Board of Ethics must at all times give the greatest latitude to said individual's professional code of conduct and, whenever possible, reconcile the within chapter to complement and respect the individual's professional code of conduct.
Substantial consideration shall be given to the effect deviation from an individual's professional code of conduct will have on that individual's ability to practice his or her profession. If need be, the Board of Ethics is authorized and required to obtain advisory opinions from the appropriate professional association to clarify any given situation.
No Town official or employee shall use or permit the use of Town property, including land, vehicles, equipment, materials and any other property, for personal convenience or profit except when such use is available to Town citizens generally or is provided as a matter of Town policy.
A Town official, employee or appointee of the Town of Colonie shall treat all members of the public, whether a person, firm, corporation or other organization, with equal consideration and without special advantage. Every such employee shall also endeavor to pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that he or she is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of their trust.
[Amended 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993]
The Employee Relations Department shall cause a copy of this Code of Ethics, the Town of Colonie ethics certification and, if required by this chapter, the long form financial disclosure to be distributed to every official and employee of the Town of Colonie no later than October 31 of each year and to newly appointed officials and employees within five days of the commencement of their official duties. The Town Clerk of the Town of Colonie shall cause a copy of this Code of Ethics and Article 18 of the General Municipal Law to be made available for public inspection at the Town Clerk's office.
[Amended 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993]
A violation of Article 18 of the General Municipal Law or any provision of this Code of Ethics shall be grounds for reprimand, fine, suspension without pay, termination of employment or such other action as permitted by law or collective bargaining agreement.
Any person who, willfully or otherwise, violates this Code of Ethics may be guilty of a misdemeanor and/or subject to the civil penalties provided herein.
Any elected official guilty of a violation of this chapter may be subject to penalties as provided and may be subject to a civil penalty of loss of pay not to exceed one month's salary or such other sanction as deemed appropriate. In addition to the sanctions for aiding, abetting, seeking or requesting a violation of this chapter, any person or organization which willfully attempts to secure preferential treatment in his or her dealings with the Town by offering any valuable gifts, whether in the form of a service, loan, thing or promise, in any form to any Town official or employee may have his or her current contracts with the Town canceled and shall not be able to bid on any other Town contract for a period of two years.
An employee of the Town found guilty of a violation of this chapter may be subject to civil penalties provided in the New York State Civil Service Law, including reprimand, fine, suspension without pay or termination of employment.
[Amended 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993]
Members of boards and commissions found guilty of a violation of this chapter may be subject to immediate removal from such appointment or such other sanction as the Board of Ethics deems appropriate.
[Added 12-2-1993 by L.L. No. 12-1993]
If any clause, sentence or provision of this chapter or the application thereof to any person or circumstance shall be adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the invalidity thereof shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder of the provisions of this chapter or the application thereof to other persons and circumstances.