[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Liberty 3-5-1990 by Ord. No. 3-90. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Indemnification of officers and employees — See Ch. 16.
To assure that all citizens are treated with courtesy, impartiality, fairness and equality under the law, the Township of Liberty declares that in our representative form of government, it is essential that the conduct of township officials and employees shall hold the respect and confidence of the people. Township officials and employees must, therefore, avoid conduct which is in violation of their public trust or which creates a justifiable impression among the public that such trust is being violated.
The Code of Ethics herein established defines conflicts of interest which are considered substantial and material, which might impair impartial or independent judgment or bring the government into disrepute.
To ensure propriety and preserve public confidence, persons serving in government should have the benefit of specific standards to guide their conduct and some disciplinary mechanism to ensure the uniform maintenance of these standards.
This code requires a disclosure of personal and financial interests in the township of all officials and employees in the Township of Liberty. An impartial Board of Ethics will review the facts and measure them by the standards established in this code. The Board of Ethics will report its findings to the Township Committee, which will take appropriate action if necessary.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- BOARD OF ETHICS
- The Board of Ethics created by this chapter.
- FINANCIAL INTEREST
- Any employment, investment or other association or activity which yields or may yield to a township official or employee, directly or indirectly, a monetary or other material benefit, except the duly authorized salary or compensation of his or her public office, position or employment.
- IMMEDIATE FAMILY
- Spouse or live-in companion and the children of either and other relatives living in the same household.
- PERSONAL INTEREST
- Any association or connection with other persons arising from blood or marriage relationships or from direct business relationships which may reasonably be expected to influence a township official or employee to favor or otherwise not to deal impartially in any matter, whether or not a financial interest is involved.
- PUBLIC BODY
- The Township Committee of the Township of Liberty or any agency, authority, board, commission, council, court, department or unit of the Township of Liberty.
There is hereby created and established a Board of Ethics of the Township of Liberty consisting of five members who are full-time residents of the township and have maintained full-time residency for a minimum of two years, who shall not hold any other office or employment under the municipality and have not held such office or employment within one year prior to their appointment.
The five members shall be appointed by a majority vote of the full membership of the Township Committee and shall serve without compensation. Nominees for appointment shall include volunteers or others recommended by a township official, employee or citizen at large. They shall serve for terms of three years or until their successors are appointed and installed. Members are eligible for reappointment. Persons who fill a vacancy shall be appointed in the same manner to serve for the remainder of the term. To provide for staggered terms, determined by lot, one of the original five members shall serve for one year, two for two years and two for three years. The members of the Board of Ethics shall elect a Chairperson at the beginning of each calendar year. No Board member shall serve as Chairperson for more than three consecutive years.
The Board shall have the power to employ such stenographic and clerical help as it may from time to time require and as authorized by the Township Committee, within the limits of funds appropriated to it.
Powers, duties and functions of the Board of Ethics. The Board of Ethics is responsible for the interpretation and implementation of the Code of Ethics through mediation and for recommendations for further actions and enforcement by the Township Committee. In addition, the Board of Ethics shall have the following powers, duties and functions:
To make, amend and rescind rules governing its organization and proceedings with the approval of the Township Committee.
To prescribe forms for the required disclosures and make available such forms to all township officials and employees.
To review the financial disclosure statements within 30 days of the filing deadline (see § 10A-8, Disclosure statement sequence) and to report to the Township Committee on any conflicts and irregularities.
To oversee the collection, preservation and maintenance of the files of all disclosures required by this chapter and to make such information available on request for inspection and review by the township officials, employees and Attorney and members of the public.
To prepare and submit to the Township Committee an annual report at the end of each calendar year, summarizing the activities of the Board of Ethics during that year.
To conduct investigations, to initiate, receive, hear and review complaints concerning violations of the Code of Ethics and to keep official minutes of all proceedings.
To request and receive from any township body, official or employee such assistance and information as will enable the Board of Ethics to properly carry out its functions and duties.
To render advisory opinions when ethical conduct has been questioned. Copies of such written opinions shall be delivered to the Township Committee, Township Attorney and any township body, official or employee requesting such advisory opinion and shall be made available to members of the public upon request.
The Board of Ethics is authorized to initiate, receive, hear and review complaints regarding alleged violations by a township official or employee of the provisions of this code. The complaint, in writing and signed by the person making the charge, shall contain a clear and concise statement of the facts alleged to constitute such violation. A copy of the complaint shall be served within 10 days on the person against whom the complaint has been made. Such complaint may come from a township official, employee or citizen at large.
The Board shall meet to review the complaint within 30 days of receipt.
In the event that the Board shall conclude there seems to be no reasonable cause to believe there has been a violation of this code, it shall so notify, in writing, the person against whom the complaint has been made and the person making the complaint. The Board shall record its findings in the official minutes of the Board.
In the event that the Board finds reasonable cause to believe there has been a violation of this code, it shall conduct a hearing within 60 days. Said hearing may be opened or closed as required by law. At said hearing the complaint will be heard and evidence received. The alleged violator shall be offered the opportunity to be heard and present evidence on his/her own behalf.
As soon as practicable after the conclusion of said hearing, but not later than 30 days, the Board shall render an advisory opinion to the Township Committee with regard to its findings, with a copy being sent to both the alleged violator and complainant.
The Township Committee, after reviewing the findings of the Board of Ethics, may write a letter of caution ordering the violator to cease and desist, may issue a reprimand or may impose penalties that include but are not limited to censure, demotion, suspension or dismissal from office or employment. Any such action shall be upon the concurrence of the majority of the members voting. When the complaint appears to be criminal, findings shall be referred to the proper law enforcement agency.
In the event of a substantiated complaint which is considered emergent by the Board of Ethics, the Chairperson may request the Mayor to issue an immediate cease and desist order to remain in effect until the next regular meeting of the entire Township Committee.
In the event that the alleged violator is a member of the Township Committee, said member shall absent himself/herself from these deliberations and shall be ineligible to vote on any decision related to the charge.
Any contract in effect with the township considered to be in violation of this code may be voided at the discretion of the Township Committee.
Contracts with the Township of Liberty. No township official or employee shall have a financial interest in any transaction or contract with the township or in the sale of materials, supplies or services to or from the township without full disclosure.
Interest in matters coming before the Township of Liberty.
No township official or employee shall recommend, lobby or vote on any matter coming before any township agency in which he/she has a direct or indirect personal, financial or private interest.
It is required that when a township official must disqualify himself/herself from participating and voting on a matter due to a conflict of interest, such official must publicly disclose his/her reasons.
Incompatible employment. No township official or employee shall engage in employment with or render services for any private person who has business transactions with any township body unless he shall first make full disclosure of the nature and extent of such employment or services. An official shall not vote on matters coming before the Township Committee or any other board that concerns the individual or corporation to which he/she is rendering services.
Confidential information. No township official or employee shall use any confidential information received in an official capacity to further the interest of himself/herself or any other person, nor shall be/she disclose to any person, whether or not for monetary gain, any information not generally made available to the public which he/she receives in the course of and by reason of official duties.
Gifts and gratuities. No township official or employee shall accept any gift, favor, service or other thing of value under circumstances from which it might be reasonably inferred that such gift, favor, service or other thing of value was given or offered for the purpose of influencing the discharge of official duties.
Representing private interests. No township official or employee, without disclosure, shall represent private interests, other than himself/herself, before the Township Committee or before any other township public body except the Municipal Court. When a township official or employee appears before the Township Committee or any other township public body representing his own private interest, it is recommended that such official or employee be represented by counsel.
Improper use of official position.
No township official or employee shall use or attempt to use his official position to obtain preferential or favored treatment or any rights, benefits, advantages, privileges or exemptions for himself/herself or any other person.
No township official or employee shall request, use or permit the use of any publicly supported property, vehicle, equipment, material, labor or service for the personal convenience or private advantage of himself/herself or any other person.
Representation of the Township of Liberty. No township official or employee shall represent or speak on behalf of the Township of Liberty at any convention, meeting, event or program without the approval of the Township Committee, and a subsequent report shall be given to the Township Committee.
Fees for speeches and publications. Reasonable fees for speeches and published works on matters within official duties may be accepted only after approval by the Township Committee.
Withholding information. No township official or employee may withhold any pertinent information or evidence that relates to any matter before a township public body.
The Financial Disclosure Statement is to be filed by all township officials and employees and shall include but not be limited to the following, in order to avoid financial or personal conflicts of interest:
A complete statement of the financial interests of the township official or employee in real estate in the Township of Liberty by tax block and lot number as well as local address.
A listing of any financial interests of the township official or employee in any business relationships related to township governance.
A list of the businesses, corporations or firms located in the Township of Liberty in which the township official or employee is an officer, director or has a financial interest.
Each individual required to make a financial disclosure as delineated in this section shall swear to its truth and shall acknowledge that the disclosure statement shall be treated as a matter of public record.
Editor's Note: A Financial Disclosure form is on file at the office of the Township Clerk.
Disclosure statements filed pursuant to the terms and provisions of this chapter shall be filed annually with the Township Clerk on or before _____________, except for the first filing, which shall take place within 30 days of the effective date of this chapter.
Newly elected officials (at their option) and employees shall file such reports prior to assuming office or employment.
Upon filing, the Board of Ethics will review each disclosure statement for possible conflicts of interest or other irregularities. The Board may request an interview to obtain information and explanations from persons filing said disclosure.
The Chairperson of the Board of Ethics shall, within 30 days of the filing deadline, render a comprehensive report to the Township Committee concerning compliance with this chapter and shall report any possible conflicts of interest and irregularities.
All written statements and information provided to the Board of Ethics by a township official or employee pursuant to this chapter shall contain the signature of such township official or employee with the following certification:
"I hereby certify that the statements contained herein, together with any and all statements previously submitted in writing to the Board of Ethics, constitute a full disclosure with respect to all matters required by the Code of Ethics Ordinance of the Township of Liberty, to the best of my knowledge. I am aware that if any of the foregoing statements made by me, including this certification, are willfully false I am subject to a warning to cease and desist, censure, demotion, suspension or dismissal from office or employment. I am also aware said disclosure and certification will be a matter of public record."
In the event that a township official or employee fails to comply with the requirements of this section, the Board of Ethics shall return any statement not in compliance to such township official or employee. Such township official or employee shall thereafter have 10 days in which to return such statement with the required certification and signature.
In the event that any township official or employee fails to comply with any of the foregoing provisions within the time therein specified, the Board of Ethics shall notify the Mayor, in writing, of such failure to comply. The Mayor shall so advise the Township Committee at the next Township Committee meeting in order that appropriate action may be taken.
Copies of these financial disclosures shall be collated and filed under the name of each township official and employee in the office of the Township Clerk. These files may be inspected by making a prior written request to the Township Clerk. Said written request shall:
An appointment shall be made allowing access within a reasonable time. Records may be copied at the expense of the individual requesting those records. Access shall be made available to those records during the regular business hours of the Township Clerk's office or by appointment.
The Township Clerk shall distribute a copy of this chapter to every official or employee of the Township of Liberty within 30 days after the effective date of this chapter. Each official or employee shall thereafter be furnished a copy of this chapter before entering office or employment.
Any complainant filing charges pursuant to this chapter shall not be exempt from the libel and slander laws of the State of New Jersey by reason of his/her filing thereof; nor shall any of said charges filed by an individual be considered as privileged under the libel and slander laws of the State of New Jersey.