[Added 10-11-2011 by L.L. No. 56-2011]
Editor's Note: This local law also repealed former Art. XXX, Code of Ethics, as amended.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- COUNTY EMPLOYEE
- All elected officials and public servants who are employed by the County and compensated for their services. This term shall not include members of the County's occupational licensing boards.
- ELECTED OFFICIAL
- A person holding office as County Executive, District Attorney,
Clerk, Comptroller, Sheriff or member of the County Legislature.[Amended 6-17-2014 by L.L. No. 32-2014]
- PUBLIC SERVANT
- All officials, officers and employees of the County, whether paid or unpaid.
The Board of Ethics shall have the responsibility of informing public servants and assisting their understanding of the conflicts of interest requirements set forth in Chapter 77, Part 1, Article I, of the Suffolk County Code. In fulfilling this responsibility, the Board shall develop a plain-language guide to conflict of interest rules and conduct at least two ethics training seminars in each even-numbered year and one training seminar in each odd-numbered year. The Board is authorized to update the ethics training program and ethics booklet as appropriate and necessary.
All elected officials shall receive mandatory ethics training at the first available ethics training seminar after the elected official takes office.
All County employees appointed by elected officials, including department heads and division heads, shall receive mandatory ethics training at the first available training seminar conducted after the effective date of their appointment.
All County employees hired or qualified to serve by the County of Suffolk after the effective date of this article shall receive the ethics booklet prepared by the Board upon commencement of their employment. Employees shall also receive a booklet copy of the ethics booklet prepared by the Board at least once every five years. All employees shall sign a statement that they have received the booklet and understand that they must abide by the conflict of interest rules contained therein during their employment with the County each time the booklet is provided to them. Such statement(s) shall be maintained in the employee's personnel file.
[Amended 12-1-2020 by L.L. No. 53-2020]
Public servants who are not County employees shall receive the ethics booklet from their appointing authority within 30 days after they are qualified to serve the County and shall sign a statement that they have received the booklet and understand that they must abide by the conflict of interest rules contained therein during the time of their service with the County. Such statement shall be maintained by the public servant's appointing or supervising authority.
The Board may utilize interactive on-line, web-based technologies to satisfy the ethics training requirements set forth herein and to publish and distribute the ethics booklet and training materials.
[Added 8-21-2012 by L.L. No. 45-2012]
The Board will render advisory opinions with respect to all matters covered by Chapter 77, Part 1, Article I, of the Suffolk County Code or any other applicable provision of law governing conflicts of interest, on the request of a public servant or a supervisory official of a public servant. The request shall be in such form as the Board may require and shall be signed by the person making the request. The Board may ask a person who is seeking an advisory opinion to appear before the Board to provide further information pertinent to the requested opinion. The opinion of the Board will be based on such facts as are presented in the request or subsequently submitted in a written, signed document or which are adduced when the person requesting the opinion appears before the Board.
Advisory opinions shall be issued only with respect to proposed future conduct or action by a public servant. A public servant whose conduct or action is the subject of an advisory opinion shall not be subject to penalties or sanctions by virtue of acting or failing to act due to reasonable reliance on the opinion, unless material facts were omitted or misstated in the request for an opinion. The Board may amend a previously issued advisory opinion after giving reasonable notice to the public servant that it is reconsidering its opinion.
The Board will issue a requested advisory opinion within 45 days after it has completed fact finding. If the Board is unable to issue the advisory opinion within 45 days, it shall so advise the person who requested the opinion before the forty-five-day period has expired. In no event shall the Board issue an advisory opinion more than 90 days after it has completed its fact finding.
Requests for advisory opinions shall be confidential, but the Commission shall make public its advisory opinions with such deletions as may be necessary to prevent disclosure of the identity of any public servant or other involved party. The advisory opinions shall be indexed by subject matter and cross-indexed by County Code section, and such index shall be maintained on an annual and cumulative basis.
For the purposes of this section only, the term "public servant" includes a prospective or former public servant, and a supervisory official includes a supervisory official who will supervise a prospective public servant or a supervisory official who supervised a former public servant.
[Added 6-4-2013 by L.L. No. 28-2013]
The Board shall make financial disclosure statement forms available to all persons required to file pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 77, Part 1, Article II, of the Suffolk County Code. The Board shall review and maintain these statements and otherwise administer and enforce the financial disclosure requirements in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 77, Part 1.
Whenever a written complaint is received by the Board alleging a violation of Chapter 77, Part 1, Article I, of the Suffolk County Code or other applicable provision of law governing conflicts of interest by a public servant or former public servant, it shall:
Dismiss the complaint if it determines that there is no reasonable cause to believe that a public servant has committed a violation; or
Refer an alleged violation to the head of the agency served by the public servant if related disciplinary charges are pending against the public servant.
A public servant or supervisory official of such public servant may request the Board to review and make a determination regarding a past or ongoing action of such public servant. Such request shall be reviewed and acted upon by the Board in the same manner as a complaint received by the Board under Subsection A of this section.
The Board, on its own motion, may review a past or ongoing action of a public servant, in the same manner as a complaint received by the Board under Subsection A of this section.
The Board's staff may answer inquiries regarding the procedure involved in making a complaint alleging an ethical violation; however, the executive director, independent counsel and support staff shall not assist any person or entity, other than the Board and its members, in the preparation of a complaint against a public servant alleging a violation of the County's Code of Ethics or other applicable provision of law governing conflicts of interest. In the event the Board receives a complaint of misconduct in a form or format that is not acceptable to the Board, the Board's staff shall notify the complainant of the defect and advise the complainant of the proper form and procedures for lodging a complaint.
[Added 8-21-2012 by L.L. No. 49-2012; amended 4-25-2017 by L.L. No. 10-2017]
It shall be unlawful for any person to make a complaint or threaten to make a complaint to the Board against a public servant, or to offer to withdraw a complaint against a public servant, in order to improperly influence that public servant’s vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision or exercise of discretion as a public servant. Such conduct will constitute a violation punishable by a fine of not more than $1,500, or imprisonment of not more than 15 days, or both.
[Added 8-21-2012 by L.L. No. 49-2012]
If the Board makes an initial determination, based on a complaint, review of a financial disclosure statement or other information available to the Board, that there is reasonable cause to believe that a public servant or former public servant has violated a provision of Chapter 77, Part 1, Article I, of the Suffolk County Code or other applicable provision of law, the Board shall notify the public servant of its determination in writing. The notice shall contain a statement of the facts upon which the Board relied for its determination of reasonable cause and a statement of the provisions of the law allegedly violated. The Board shall also inform the public servant of the Board's procedural rules. The public servant shall have a reasonable time to respond and shall have the right to be represented by counsel or any other person.
If, after receiving the public servant's response, the Board determines that there is no reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, the Board shall dismiss the matter and inform the public servant of its decision in writing. If, after considering the public servant's response, the Board determines there remains reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, the Board shall direct a hearing to be held or hold a hearing on the record to determine whether a violation has occurred, or shall refer the matter to the appropriate agency if the public servant is subject to the jurisdiction of any state law or collective bargaining agreement which provides for the conduct of disciplinary proceedings.
If the Board determines, after a hearing or the opportunity for a hearing, that a public servant has committed a violation, it shall issue a decision and order setting forth its conclusions and imposing such penalties as it deems appropriate and, when appropriate, may refer the matter to the District Attorney or other appropriate law enforcement agency. If the Board determines, after a hearing or the opportunity for a hearing, that a public servant has not violated provisions of Chapter 77, Part 1, it shall issue a decision setting forth its conclusion.
The Board shall issue its decisions within 45 days after the completion of a hearing. If the Board is unable to issue its decision within this forty-five-day period, it shall so advise the public servant prior to the expiration of the forty-five-day period. In no event, shall the Board issue its decision more than 90 days after the completion of a hearing.
Hearings of the Board shall not be public unless requested by the public servant. The order and the Board's findings and conclusions shall be made public.
Nothing contained in this section shall prohibit the appointing officer of a public servant from terminating or otherwise disciplining such public servant, where such appointing officer is authorized to do so; provided, however, that such action shall not preclude the Board from exercising its powers and duties under this article with respect to the actions of any such public servant.
The Board may conduct any investigation necessary to carry out the provisions of this article and Chapter 77, Part 1, of the Suffolk County Code. Pursuant to this power, the Commission may administer oaths and affirmations, subpoena witnesses, compel their attendance and require the production of any books or records which it may deem relevant or material to the investigation. Such subpoenas may only be issued by a supermajority vote of the entire membership of the Board.
[Amended 8-21-2012 by L.L. No. 49-2012]
Except as otherwise provided by this article, testimony received or any other information obtained by a member of the Board or the staff of the Board in connection with the preparation of an advisory opinion or the investigation of a complaint or referral, or the conduct of a hearing related to a complaint or referral, is confidential and shall not be disclosed by any such individual to any person or entity outside the Board. In no event shall financial disclosure statements filed with the Board pursuant to Chapter 77, Article II, of the Suffolk County Code be deemed confidential. However, the Board shall provide all documents requested by the Suffolk County Legislature or a duly authorized committee of the Legislature that is exercising oversight of the Board of Ethics. Such a request for records must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature via a procedural motion.
[Amended 4-25-2017 by L.L. No. 10-2017]
Any unauthorized disclosure of confidential information by a member of the Board, or the executive director, independent counsel or staff of the Board, shall be a violation punishable by a fine of not more than $1,500, or imprisonment of not more than 15 days, or both.
[Added 8-21-2012 by L.L. No. 49-2012]
A member of the Board shall disclose to the full Board any personal or business relationship he or she may have with a public servant who has requested an advisory opinion or who is the subject of a complaint pending before the Board. If the member does not recuse himself or herself from participating in that particular matter or proceeding, he or she shall file a written statement with the Board explaining why he or she is able to participate fairly, objectively and in the public’s interest.
The Board shall prepare and submit a report to the County Executive and the County Legislature no later than March 1 each year, summarizing the activities of the Board during the preceding calendar year.