Town of New Milford, CT
Litchfield County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
Public office is a public trust. Having the trust of the public is essential for government to function effectively. Government cannot function effectively without having the public's trust. Public policy developed by government officials and employees affects every citizen of the Town and must therefore be based on honest and fair deliberations and decisions.
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
In accord with the provisions of Section 7-148h of the Connecticut General Statutes, there is hereby established a Code of Ethics. The purpose of this Code is to provide standards for the conduct of Officials and employees so as to maintain the public's confidence in the integrity and fairness of its government.
(b) 
This Code of Ethics shall be incorporated into the Personnel Manual for Town Employees and these standards of ethical conduct shall be applicable to all Town officials, elected and appointed, and all employees, paid and unpaid, full-time and part-time, including employees who are members of any labor union. Notwithstanding the foregoing, all employees shall also be subject to all other administrative processes, including, without limitation, applicable disciplinary proceedings.
(c) 
Whenever the potential for violation of this chapter exists, Officials shall publicly disclose their involvement in the issue under consideration and disqualify themselves from all discussions and decision-making. Nevertheless, following appropriate public disclosure, an official may vote or otherwise participate in a matter if the interest is shared with a substantial segment of the population of the Town, provided that disclosure pursuant to this provision shall not constitute a defense against a complaint resulting from such participation in the absence of an advisory opinion requested prior to the filing of a related complaint.
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
In accord with the provisions of Section 7-148h of the Connecticut General Statutes, there is hereby created an Ethics Commission (hereinafter "Commission") for the purpose of the administration of this chapter.
(a) 
Regular members. Said Commission shall consist of five regular members, electors of the Town, who are known for their integrity. No more than two members may be of the same political party. The members shall be appointed in accord with the provisions of Chapter X of the Charter for a term of five years, commencing December 1, 1987, except that, of the initially appointed members, one shall serve for one year, one for two years, one for three years, one for four years and one for five years.
(b) 
Alternates. The Commission shall include three alternates appointed in accord with the provisions of Section 1006 of the Charter. No alternate may be a member of the same political party as another alternate. Alternates shall be appointed for a term of three years, except that of the initially appointed alternates one shall serve a term ending November 30, 2005, one a term ending November 30, 2006, and one a term ending November 30, 2007. All alternates may participate fully in all meetings of the Commission, except that only seated alternates may deliberate and vote on a particular matter. At the outset of any meeting, alternates will be seated by the Commission chair or presiding officer as necessary.
(c) 
Meetings. The Commission shall meet in January of each year to elect a Chairman and such other officers as it deems necessary, all of whom shall be voting members, and to conduct such other business as may be appropriate. The Commission shall establish its rules of procedure, which shall be in conformity with this chapter. Said rules shall be filed with the Town Clerk and shall become effective 30 days after said filing. It shall keep records of its meetings and shall hold meetings at the call of the Chairman or at such other time as the Commission shall determine.
(d) 
Quorum. If, at any meeting, there are an insufficient number of regular members in attendance to establish a quorum, the Chair or presiding member shall recognize and count such number of alternates in attendance that are necessary to make a quorum for the sole purpose of making such quorum and thereafter the meeting may be commenced. After the commencement of the meeting, the Chair or presiding member shall seat alternates, in rotation, to fill as many absent regular member seats as are available. Alternates who are seated after the commencement of a meeting shall be part of the panel that shall consider all matters on that agenda at such meeting and shall remain seated for those matters until they are finally disposed of at that or continued or subsequent meetings irrespective of the later arrival or attendance of any regular member for whom such alternates were seated. Three members, including seated alternates, if any, shall constitute a quorum. A concurrence of three votes shall be required to make a finding of probable cause to believe that a violation of the code may have occurred; to make a determination that a violation of the code has occurred; to issue an order of censure; to make recommendations regarding penalties; to consider, adopt, amend, or revoke an advisory opinion; or to approve withdrawal of a complaint. All other business, including a determination to render a requested advisory opinion, may be conducted by a majority of those present and entitled to vote.
(e) 
Limitation of service. No member or alternate may serve as a Town official, as defined herein, in any capacity other than such service on the Commission.
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
Agency
shall include all permanent and temporary agencies, boards, commissions and departments of the Town.
Business with which he is associated
means any sole proprietorship, partnership, firm, corporation, trust or other entity through which business for profit or not for profit is conducted in which the public official or member of his immediate family is a director, officer, owner, limited or general partner, beneficiary of a trust or holder of stock constituting 5% or more of the total outstanding stock of any class, provided a public official or member of his immediate family shall not be deemed to be associated with a not-for-profit entity solely by virtue of the fact that the public official or member of his immediate family is an unpaid director or officer of the not-for-profit entity. "Officer" refers only to the president, executive or senior vice president or treasurer of such business.
Clear and convincing evidence
means evidence of such quality and weight that causes the Commission to conclude that it is highly probable that a violation of the Code of Ethics has occurred.
Confidential information
means any information not a matter of public record which is obtained by reason of an official's position or employment with the Town.
Final decision
means an action by the Commission that results in the conclusion of all proceedings pertaining to a particular complaint. A probable cause determination is not a final decision.
Financial interest
shall mean any interest which shall yield a direct or indirect monetary or other material benefit to an official. The duly authorized salary or compensation of an official and benefits which inure to all citizens of the Town equally shall not constitute a financial interest.
Officials
shall include all persons holding elected or appointed offices of the Town or of its agencies, whether paid or unpaid, and shall include all full-time and part-time paid employees of the Town or its agencies.
Probable Cause
is evidence that provides reasonable grounds to consider it likely that a violation of this Code of Ethics has occurred. Probable cause is more than a mere suspicion but less than a preponderance of the evidence. To find probable cause there must be knowledge of the facts sufficient to justify a reasonable person in the belief that there are reasonable grounds for prosecuting the complaint.
Respondent
means the Official against whom a complaint regarding his activities has been filed.
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
As provided in Section 7-148h of the Connecticut General Statutes, the provisions of the Charter or any ordinance to the contrary notwithstanding, an official of the Town of New Milford, as defined in this chapter, has an interest that is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of the official's duties or employment in the public interest and of the official's responsibilities as prescribed by the laws of this state if the official has reason to believe or expect that the official, the official's spouse or dependent child, or a business with which he is associated, as defined in Section 1-79 of the Connecticut General Statutes, will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss, as the case may be, by reason of the official's official activity. Any such official does not have an interest that is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of the official's duties in the public interest and of the official's responsibilities as prescribed by the laws of this state, if any benefit or detriment accrues to the official, the official's spouse or dependent child, or a business with which he, his spouse or such dependent child is associated as a member of a profession, occupation or group to no greater extent than to any other member of such profession, occupation or group. Any such official who has a substantial conflict may not take official action on the matter.
(b) 
Officials of the Town are prohibited from having any direct or indirect financial interest in any contract with or purchase order from the Town or any agency thereof where such interest is incompatible with the proper discharge of their public office or could impair their independence or impartiality of judgment or action in the performance of their public duties.
(c) 
No official or spouse of such official shall accept any gift or favor having a value in excess of $25 from any person, firm or corporation which is interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract or purchase order from the Town or any agency thereof or in any business dealings with the Town involving such officials or the discharge of his public duties. An official receiving an item in excess of $25 shall promptly deliver such item to an appropriate public or charitable institution at the direction of the Mayor.
(d) 
Officials shall not use confidential information to procure or to assist others to procure contracts or other benefits from the Town except in the proper discharge of public duties in the public interest.
(e) 
Officials shall not disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the Town except in the proper discharge of their public duties in the public interest.
(f) 
Officials shall not, in their official capacities, grant or make available to any person any consideration, treatment, advantage or favor beyond that which it is the general practice to grant or make available to the public at large.
(g) 
Officials shall not use confidential information to advance the financial or other private interests of themselves or others except in the proper discharge of their public duties in the public interest.
(h) 
Officials shall not engage in or accept private or other public employment or render services for private interests when such employment or services are incompatible with the proper discharge of their public duties or could impair their independence or impartiality of judgment or action in the performance of their public duties.
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
Form, delivery. Requests for advisory opinions shall be written and signed and shall be submitted to the Chairman of the Commission by delivery thereof to the Town Clerk.
(b) 
Date of receipt. The date of filing of a request for an advisory opinion shall be the date of the next meeting of the Commission immediately following the date of the submission to the Commission or its agent of such request or 30 days after such submission, whichever is sooner.
(c) 
Commission discretion. Upon written request from any official concerning his own conduct, the Commission, upon the concurring vote of two of its members to proceed, shall render written advisory opinions based on the provisions of the Code of Ethics.
(d) 
Opinion not confidential. The hearing, consideration, deliberation and content of requests for advisory opinions and advisory opinions shall not be confidential.
(e) 
Opinion binding, absolute defense. Any advisory opinion concerning an official who requested the opinion and who acted in reliance thereon in good faith shall be binding upon the Commission, and it shall be an absolute defense to any proceeding brought under the provisions of this chapter that the official acted in reliance upon such advisory opinion.
(f) 
Filing, mailing. A written advisory opinion and the request that it is in response to are to be filed with the Town Clerk within 60 days of the filing of said request. The opinion and request shall be permanently preserved by the Town Clerk. The Commission shall also forward a copy of the advisory opinion by registered or certified mail to said official within said 60 days.
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 6-11-1990; Ord. of 8-12-2003; Ord. of 12-8-2003; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
Form, content. Complaints alleging violations of this chapter shall be signed under oath as to the truth of the allegations and shall include the name of the official involved and the specific act or acts alleged to constitute such violation. Complaints shall be submitted to the Commission or its agent in a sealed envelope or package. The Complaint shall include adequate documentation that the official has engaged in the alleged activities, such as copies of relevant documents or explicit references to specific pertinent public records. Failure to provide supporting information may result in dismissal of the complaint. As herein set forth, the existence and contents of any complaint shall be and shall remain confidential.
(b) 
Delivery. Complaints shall be submitted to the Chairman of the Commission by delivery thereof to the Town Clerk.
(c) 
Date of receipt. The date of the receipt of a complaint shall be the date of the next meeting of the full Commission immediately following the date of the submission to the Commission or its agent of such complaint or request or 30 days after such submission, whichever is sooner.
(d) 
Period of limitation, jurisdiction. The Commission shall investigate such complaint, provided that no complaint may be considered by the Commission unless it shall have been filed within three years of the act complained of. If, after the filing of a complaint against him, an Official shall resign or leave office for any reason, the Commission may, in its discretion, continue its investigation into whether or not a violation of the Code of Ethics was committed by said Official notwithstanding whether a penalty may be imposed. Commission deliberations on this matter shall consider the public interest and the stated purpose of this Code of Ethics.
(e) 
Initial screening. Within 10 days after its receipt of a complaint, the Commission shall perform an initial screening and review of the complaint to determine whether:
[1] 
The person against whom the complaint has been filed is not an official as defined in this chapter; or
[2] 
The alleged conduct of the official, when taken as true, does not constitute a violation of this Code of Ethics; or
[3] 
The facts set forth in the complaint are substantially the same as the facts that were set forth in a complaint that had been previously considered and disposed of by the Commission.
Promptly upon completion of the initial screening, the Commission shall give notice to the complainant and to the respondent by certified and regular mail that it has received such complaint and the date, time and place that it will meet to consider such complaint or, if the Commission has determined that either of the foregoing conditions exist, a statement that the complaint has been dismissed and that no further action will be taken in such matter by the Commission. Such notice shall include a copy of the complaint.
(f) 
Preliminary investigation. Any investigation to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe that a violation of this chapter has occurred shall be concluded within 90 days of the receipt of such complaint. The Commission may, by majority vote of those seated and present, and for good cause stated on the public record, extend said period for such determination to a maximum of 120 days from the date of receipt of the complaint.
(g) 
Confidentiality of preliminary investigation. In accord with the provisions of Section 1-82a of the Connecticut General Statutes, an investigation conducted prior to a probable cause finding shall be confidential except upon the request of the respondent. If the investigation is confidential, the allegations in the complaint and any information supplied to or received from the Commission shall not be disclosed during the investigation to any third party by a complainant, respondent, witness, designated party or Commission or staff member. No provision of this chapter shall prevent the Commission from reporting the possible commission of a crime to the State's Attorney's Office.
(h) 
Dismissal of complaint. If the Commission determines after a preliminary investigation that no probable cause exists to believe that a violation of this chapter has occurred or if it finds that the allegations contained in the complaint do not constitute a violation of this chapter, it shall dismiss such complaint and inform the complainant and respondent of the dismissal by certified and regular mail and advise of the confidentiality requirements set forth in Section 1-82a of the Connecticut General Statutes.
(i) 
Confidentiality of finding of no probable cause. If the Commission makes a finding of no probable cause, the complaint and the record of its investigation shall remain confidential, except upon the request of the respondent and except that some or all of the record may be used in subsequent proceedings. No complainant, respondent, witness, designated party or Commission or staff member shall disclose to any third party any information learned from the investigation, including knowledge of the existence of a complaint, which the disclosing party would not otherwise have known. If such a disclosure is made, the Commission may, after consultation with the respondent if the respondent is not the source of the disclosure, publish its finding and a summary of its reasons therefor. Not later than three business days after the termination of the preliminary investigation, the Commission shall inform the complainant and the respondent in writing of its finding and provide to them by certified and regular mail a written summary of its reasons for making that finding. The Commission shall publish its findings upon the respondent's request and may also publish a summary of its reasons for making such finding.
[Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
If, after a preliminary investigation, a finding is made that probable cause exists that a violation of this chapter has occurred, the Commission shall notify both the complainant and the respondent in writing by certified and regular mail that such finding has been made and shall provide therewith a summary of its reasons for making that finding. The Commission shall thereafter conduct one or more hearings into the complaint, which hearings shall be public. The Commission shall make public a finding of probable cause not later than five business days after the termination of the investigation. At such time, the entire record of the investigation shall become public, except that the Commission may postpone examination or release of such public records for a period not to exceed 14 days for the purpose of reaching a stipulation with the respondent in a manner consistent with the provisions of Section 4-177(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes. The terms of any such stipulation notwithstanding, the entire record of the investigation shall be made public not later than 14 days after termination of the probable cause investigation.
(b) 
The public hearing is an adjudicatory administrative proceeding. It is not a trial. All such proceedings shall be prosecuted by the Commission, not the complainant, in accord with procedures formulated and adopted by the Commission. The Commission, by Town Counsel or by a special counsel appointed to assist it in performing its obligations under this chapter, may issue subpoenas or subpoenas duces tecum, enforceable upon application to the Superior Court, to compel the attendance of persons at hearings and the production of books, documents, records and papers. All witnesses shall be sworn and may be represented by counsel. Unless the witness is the respondent, however, no counsel for a witness may object to questions or evidence or otherwise participate in the proceedings except to render advice to his or her client. The respondent shall have the right to be represented by legal counsel; to present evidence; and to examine and cross-examine witnesses. Testimony shall be recorded verbatim. If electronic or other recording equipment is used, testimony shall be transcribed in written form. All such recordings and transcriptions shall be retained for a minimum of one year after the conclusion of the hearings or any other legal proceedings that result from the complaint.
(c) 
Any Official who is notified that he is the subject of a complaint filed with the Commission may engage an attorney to assist in responding thereto.
(d) 
The Commission shall base any finding of a violation of this Code of Ethics on clear and convincing evidence which shall be set forth in the record before it.
(e) 
Whenever a hearing is held on a complaint, if a majority of the Commission members or seated alternates who are to render the final decision have not heard the evidence or read the record, the decision, if adverse to the respondent, shall not be released by the Commission until a proposed decision is served upon such respondent by certified and regular mail and he shall be afforded 21 days to file exceptions and present briefs and oral argument on such proposed decision to the Commission.
(f) 
Not later than 15 days after the close of the public hearing(s) conducted to determine whether there has been a violation of this chapter, the Commission shall publish its finding and a memorandum of its reasons therefor, including written findings of fact and conclusions based thereon, and the Commission shall notify the complainant and the respondent that the hearing and investigation have terminated and of the conclusion reached. The Commission shall make recommendations to the Mayor concerning the propriety of the conduct involved and the appropriate penalties attaching to such conduct, if any.
[Ord. of 6-11-2007]
Any respondent aggrieved by a final decision of the Commission in which a violation is found may appeal to the Superior Court within 30 days of the Commission's mailing of its decision to the respondent by certified and regular mail.
[Ord. of 6-11-2007]
In carrying out its duties under this chapter in the consideration of advisory opinions, investigating complaints for probable cause or in conducting hearings on complaints in which probable cause is found, the Commission may, in its discretion, appoint one or more persons to act as a subcommittee which shall report its findings and make recommendations to the full Commission.
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
If the Commission finds that a respondent has violated a provision of this Code of Ethics, as it may be amended from time to time or as it may be amended or supplemented by a provision of the Connecticut General Statutes, the Commission may issue an order censuring said respondent.
(b) 
The Commission may also make recommendations to the Mayor for the imposition of other penalties, including, but not limited to, public reprimand; the voiding of any contracts, pending transactions and purchase orders found to have been made in violation of this chapter; and/or the imposition of any other penalty or penalties provided by the Connecticut General Statutes for violation of municipal codes of ethics and/or provided in the Charter or the Town of New Milford Personnel Manual, as may be applicable.
[Ord. of 1-12-2004; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
Following a final decision on the complaint by the Commission, provided that the Commission has not found that the activities alleged in the complaint constitute a violation of this Code of Ethics, the respondent or the respondent's attorney may request compensation for legal fees and associated expenses specifically incurred in defending the respondent before the Commission as follows:
[1] 
For all proceedings through the conclusion of the preliminary investigation described in § 6B-7(f), including a determination that there is no probable cause to continue the investigation, expiration of the time to complete a preliminary investigation into probable cause, a determination that the allegations contained in the complaint do not constitute a violation of this chapter, or withdrawal of the complaint: a sum representing full or partial compensation of legal fees and expenses actually incurred by the respondent, in an amount not to exceed $3,000.
[2] 
For all proceedings through a final decision on the complaint, inclusive of the preliminary investigation into probable cause: a sum representing full or partial compensation of legal fees and expenses actually incurred by the respondent, in an aggregate amount not to exceed $5,000.
(b) 
Any such payment would be tendered only as compensation for actual legal fees and associated expenses incurred by the respondent in defending against the complaint. Within 30 days after the mailing of a notice to the respondent that the Commission has rendered a final decision on the complaint and has not found that the activities alleged in the complaint constitute a violation of this Code of Ethics, the respondent or the respondent's attorney may submit a request for compensation to the Mayor. The request for compensation shall be supported by time and expense records for charges solely and directly associated with defending the respondent against the complaint. The required records shall be prepared by the respondent's attorney and submitted to the Mayor as a verifiable document signed by the respondent's attorney.
(c) 
The request for compensation shall specify whether compensation should be made directly to the respondent or, if necessary to protect confidentiality as required by this chapter, to the respondent's attorney in trust for the respondent.
(d) 
Required certifications.
[1] 
In addition to the information required above, the request for compensation shall be accompanied by the following certifications from the Commission:
a. 
Identification of the specific complaint by number or other means normally utilized by the Commission.
b. 
The subject of the above complaint is an official as defined by this chapter.
c. 
Identification of the attorney that represented the above official.
d. 
Disposition of the complaint by the Commission.
[2] 
The respondent or the respondent's attorney shall be responsible for obtaining the required certification from the Commission before submitting the request for compensation.
(e) 
The Mayor or the Mayor's designee shall promptly verify that the request for compensation is complete as described above. Within 15 days of receipt of the request for compensation in the Mayor's office, the Mayor or the Mayor's designee shall notify the respondent or the respondent's attorney that the request for compensation is complete and has been forwarded to the Director of Finance for prompt processing or that additional information is required to complete the requirements of this chapter.
(f) 
If an appropriation is required before payment can be completed, the complete request for compensation shall be placed on the agenda of the next regular Town Council meeting. In that event, the respondent or the respondent's attorney shall be provided a copy of the agenda for that Town Council meeting.
(g) 
The Town shall not provide compensation for legal fees or other expenses incurred as a result of a request for an advisory opinion as authorized herein.
[Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
Introduction. To ensure that Commission processes are fair and impartial, Commission Members, staff members, consultants, parties and interested persons are held to certain standards regarding ex parte communications. Their decisions must be based only on evidence properly presented to them in a proper forum. Doing so can result in serious bias and ex parte information may be excluded from the proceeding.
(b) 
Definition. An ex parte communication is an oral or written communication not on the public record made to or by Commission Members, staff member, consultants, parties and interested persons without notice to all the parties that is related to the merits or outcome of a complaint.
(c) 
Prohibition. Except as expressly permitted in this code, no regular or alternate Commission member shall communicate with any complainant, respondent or third party concerning a matter before it except within the context of an official proceeding. Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit the submission of written communications to the Chairman of the Commission, presiding member of the Commission or subcommittee by delivery thereof to the Town Clerk. Such written communications shall be delivered to the Commission or subcommittee at its next meeting. Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit communications by the Chairman of the Commission, presiding member of the Commission or subcommittee with the Town Attorney or the Commission's attorney.
[Ord. of 10-26-1987; Ord. of 6-11-1990; Ord. of 9-12-2005; Ord. of 6-11-2007]
(a) 
Officials and employees shall be given a copy of this chapter, a copy of Section 7-148h of the Connecticut General Statutes and a copy of Section 1-82a of the Connecticut General Statutes within 30 days of its effective date. Subsequently, officials and employees shall be given copies of these documents at the time they are sworn or at the time they commence their official duties.
(b) 
On or before October 1 of each year, the Town Attorney shall review the results of the most recently completed legislative session to determine whether any legislation has been enacted that would substantively affect this chapter and/or the statutes incorporated therein. If no substantive changes have been enacted the Town Attorney will so notify the Town Clerk in writing. If substantive changes have been enacted the Town Attorney shall notify the Town Council and offer such recommendations as may be appropriate to conform this chapter to the Connecticut General Statutes.
(c) 
The provisions hereof shall not limit the power of Town Officials, boards or commissions to discipline their officers or employees nor limit the power of other Town officers to discipline subordinates.
(d) 
Unless the context otherwise requires, words herein importing the masculine, feminine and neuter genders shall include the others of them and words importing the singular shall include the plural and vice versa.