[HISTORY: Adopted by the Bellevue Board 9-29-1993 (§ 1.09 of the 1998 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
High moral and ethical standards are essential to the operation of free government. A Code of Ethics is established for all Village officials, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, all Village employees and agents of the Village, all members of Village boards and committees and persons furnishing contracted services to the Village and its boards and committees. This code establishes guidelines for ethical standards of conduct for all such officials, employees, agents, committee and board members and persons furnishing contracted services. It directs disclosure by officials, board and committee members, employees, agents and candidates for Village office of private financial or other interests in matters affecting the Village.
This Code of Ethics does not prohibit Village officials from having other employment and financial interests. Village officials, however, need to distinguish between inconsequential conflicts which are unavoidable and those conflicts which are substantial. The purpose of this code is to help Village officials in avoiding serious conflicts of interest and promote confidence in our local government.
Elected and appointed officials, committee and board members and employees of the Village should work for the benefit of the public and are bound to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state and to carry out independently and impartially the laws of the nation, state and Village; observe in their official acts the highest standards of morality; and to discharge faithfully the duties of their office/position regardless of personal consideration, recognizing that public interests must be their prime concern. The conduct of Village officials, board and committee members, employees, agents and those furnishing contracted services to the Village should foster respect for government.
There are certain provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes which should, while not set forth herein, be considered an integral part of this Code of Ethics.
The provisions of the following sections of the Wisconsin Statutes are made a part of this chapter and shall apply to elected and appointed officials whenever applicable, namely:
A Village official, board or committee member or employee should not use his position or office to obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value for his own personal benefit other than the salary and benefits which he is due. These individuals should avoid promoting the special interests of any persons or groups other than the best interests of the Village.
A Village official, board or committee member, employee, agent or person furnishing contracted services should not exceed his authority and should work in full cooperation with public officials, board and committee members and Village employees. Employees, agents and those furnishing contracted services should adhere to the rules of work and performance established as the standard for their positions by the appropriate authority.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- Any representative, including only those Village employees specifically designated by the Village Board, whose function is to bring about, modify, affect, accept performance of or terminate contractual obligations between the Village and third persons. All other nondesignated full- or part-time Village employees are specifically excluded from this definition.
- FINANCIAL INTEREST
- Any interest which shall yield directly a monetary or other material benefit to the official, employee or agent or to any person employing or retaining the services of the official, employee or agent.
- IMMEDIATE FAMILY
- The official's or employee's spouse and any relative by marriage, lineal descent or adoption who receives, directly or indirectly, more than 1/2 of his support from the official or employee.
- IMPROPER CONDUCT
- Any violations of this chapter.
- Any elected or appointed office holder of the Village. These include, but are not limited to, Village President, Trustees, Clerk-Treasurer, and Assessor.
- Any natural person, corporation, partnership or joint venture.
- A person related by blood as a first cousin or closer in kinship; a person related by blood to one's spouse as a first cousin or closer in kinship; or a person who through adoption is related to one's self or one's spouse as a first cousin or closer in kinship.
Use of public property. No official, employee or agent shall request or permit the use of motor vehicles, equipment, materials or property of the Village for personal convenience or profit.
Obligation to citizens. No official, employee or agent shall grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizen beyond that which is available to every other citizen.
Financial or personal interests prohibited. No official, employee or agent, whether paid or unpaid, shall engage in any business or transaction or shall act in regard to financial or other personal interest, direct or indirect, which is incompatible with the proper discharge of his official duties in the public interest, contrary to the provisions of this chapter or would tend to impair his independence of judgment or action in the performance of his official duties.
Specific conflicts enumerated.
Incompatible employment. No official, employee or agent shall engage in or accept private employment or render service for private interest when such employment or service is incompatible with the proper discharge of his official duties or would tend to impair such official's, employee's or agent's independence of judgment or action in the performance of his official duties, unless otherwise permitted by law and unless disclosure is made as herein provided.
Disclosure of confidential information. No official, employee, board or committee member or agent shall, without proper legal authorization, disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the Village, nor shall such official, employee or agent use such information to advance the financial or other private interest of himself or others.
Gifts and favors.
No elected or appointed official or agent shall accept anything of value, whether in the form of gift, service, loan, thing or promise, from any person which may tend to impair his independence of judgment or action in the performance of his duties. No elected or appointed official or agent shall grant in the discharge of his duties any improper favor, service or thing of value. Any elected or appointed official or agent who receives, directly or indirectly, any gift or gifts having an aggregate value of more than $50 within any calendar year from any person who is known by such official to be interested directly or indirectly in any manner whatever in business dealings with the Village upon which the official or agent has any influence or input or over which the official or agent has any jurisdiction, discretion or control shall disclose the nature and value of such gifts to the Ethics Board by the next January 20 following the year in which the gift or gifts are received. A gift or favor made or granted to a member of an official's or agent's immediate family shall be deemed made or granted to the official.
No elected or appointed official or agent may solicit or accept, either directly or indirectly, from any person or organization money or anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence the official's actions or judgments or be considered a reward for any action or inaction on the part of the official. Campaign contributions are an exception and should be carefully documented and handled in accordance with the provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes.
An elected or appointed official or agent is not to accept hospitality if after consideration of the surrounding circumstances it could reasonably be concluded that such hospitality would not be extended were it not for the fact that the guest or a member of the guest's immediate family was a Village official. Participation in celebrations, grand openings, open houses, informational meetings and similar events is excluded from this prohibition. This subsection further shall not be construed to prevent candidates for elective office from accepting hospitality from citizens for the purpose of supporting the candidate's campaign.
Gifts received by an elected or appointed official or agent under unusual circumstances should be referred to the Ethics Board within 10 days of receipt for recommended disposition.
Contracts with the Village. No official, employee or agent of the Village who, in his capacity as such official, employee or agent, participates in the making of a contract in which such official, employee or agent has a private pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, or performs in regard to that contract some function requiring the exercise of discretion on the part of such official, employee or agent shall enter into any contract with the Village, unless pursuant to § 946.13, Wis. Stats., the contract is awarded through a process of public notice and competitive bidding. Employment contracts with the Village are excepted from this provision.
Representing private interests before the Village. No official or employee shall appear on behalf of any private person, other than himself, his spouse or minor children, before any Village agency or municipal court. However, a member of the Village Board may appear before Village agencies on behalf of his constituents in the course of his duties as a representative of the electorate or in the performance of public or civic obligations.
Employment of relatives. No official, employee or agent, except as designated by the Village Board, shall participate in a discussion or proceeding which is held for the purpose of interviewing and/or hiring a job applicant; setting the salary, duties and/or conditions of employment of a job applicant or any employee; or firing any employee, who is a relative of such official. No official shall head a department which employs a relative. No employee shall work in a department which is headed by a relative. Any employee who on March 1, 1990, was in a position that would be in conflict with the provisions contained herein is specifically permitted to continue in such position.
Official not to be full-time employee. No elective or appointive official shall be a full-time employee of the Village. Any official who on March 1, 1990, was in a position that would be in conflict with the provisions contained herein is specifically permitted to continue in such position.
To the extent known, all elected and appointed officials of the Village, members of its boards and committees or employees of the Village who have a financial interest in any proposed action shall disclose on the records of the Village promptly the nature and extent of such interest. To the extent known, all persons furnishing contracted services to the Village, its boards or committees who have a financial interest in any proposed action shall, to the extent the proposed action relates to the contracted services provided or to be provided, disclose on the records of the Village promptly the nature and extent of such interest. Any other official, employee or agent who has a financial interest in any proposed action and who participates in discussion with or gives an official opinion or recommendation to the Village Board or any board or committee shall disclose on the records of the Village promptly the nature and extent of such interest.
Initial statement of economic interest. In addition to the financial and personal disclosures required by § 40-7, all elected and appointed officials of the Village and such other officials, agents and employees of the Village as shall from time to time be designated by the Ethics Board and confirmed by the Village Board shall file with the Clerk-Treasurer a statement of financial and/or personal interests within a time period specified by the Ethics Board. Individual members of boards and committees, including members of the Ethics Board, may be required to file a statement of financial and/or personal interest within a time period specified by the Ethics Board if the Ethics Board determines that it is necessary in the evaluation of a formal written complaint charging any member of a board, committee or commission with a conflict of interest.
Time limit for filing initial statement. Within 10 days after a person becomes a candidate for any elective Village office or prior to appointment to such office, such person shall file a statement of financial and/or personal interests with the Village Clerk-Treasurer, unless he has previously filed a statement within the same calendar year. In this case, he may file an updated version.
Updating of initial statement. Initial statements shall be updated annually and filed with the Village Clerk-Treasurer by May 15. The Clerk-Treasurer shall provide the necessary forms to such officials by May 1.
Failure to comply with filing of disclosure statement. A person required to file a statement of interests under this section who has not complied with Subsection B or C of this section shall not receive any salary or compensation from the Village nor have his name appear on a ballot or take an oath of office until he has filed the proper statement. The Village Clerk-Treasurer is directed to strike from the ballot the name of any candidate who fails to comply with the provisions of Subsection B.
Form of statement. A person filing any statement of financial and/or personal interests under this policy shall file the statement on a form prescribed by the Ethics Board to the Village Board, the form to be as follows:
The name and address of the person, spouse and any person who receives more than half of his support from the person filing and his spouse and all names they use in business or any professional practice.
The name of all corporations and other business interests in which the person, spouse or minor children hold any office or directorship or own or control, directly or indirectly, 5% or more of the outstanding stock or business ownership. The name and address of all those holding records title or 5% or more of the interest in such corporation or business.
The names of the employers of the person and spouse and a brief statement of the nature of the employment.
A description of all parcels of real estate within the Village and adjoining towns, excluding a personal residence, in which the person, spouse or minor children own any interest, including an option or purchase contract. The name and address of all those holding records title or 5% or more of the interest in such real estate.
The name of all persons, excluding ancestors, immediate family and lineal descendants, to whom the person filing, spouse or minor children owe a debt of $10,000 or more, excluding debts on a personal residence and property used primarily for personal recreation. The names of all individuals (excluding ancestors, immediate family and lineal descendants), businesses or corporations who are indebted $10,000 or more to the person filing.
Any license or permit issued by the Village to the person, spouse or minor children. Burning, animal and bicycle permits may be excluded.
The name and address of all persons, firms and corporations who have given gifts within the past 12 months if the collective value of the gift is $500 or more if the giver is now engaged or has within the last 12 months engaged in business dealings with the Village. Gifts received from ancestors, immediate family and lineal descendants may be excluded.
The name and address of all firms and corporations from whom the individual or his family has received earned income of $1,000 or more in the past 12 months other than from employment as listed in Subsection E(3) above if such entity has at any time within the last three years done, is now doing or is likely to do business or engage in any transactions with the Village.
Campaign contributions shall be reported by all candidates for official and employee positions in the Village in strict conformity with the provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes.
There is hereby created an Ethics Board for the Village.
Structure and method of appointment. The Ethics Board shall consist of five members, including one Trustee, excluding the Village President, and two alternates. Upon prior request of the Village Board, the Village Attorney shall furnish the Board whatever legal assistance is necessary to carry out its functions.
Membership. The members of the Ethics Board shall be appointed by the Village President and confirmed by the Village Board. Terms of office shall be three years, except that when initial appointments are made, one shall be appointed for one year, two for two years and two for three years. If any member of the Ethics Board petitions the Board for an advisory opinion regarding his conduct, such member shall be excluded from sitting in his own case.
Leadership and procedures. The Ethics Board shall elect its own Chairperson and Vice Chairperson and shall develop written rules of procedure which shall be submitted to the Village Board for approval.
Amendment to Code of Ethics. The Ethics Board may make recommendations to the Village Board with respect to amendments to this chapter.
Upon written sworn complaint of any person alleging facts which, if true, would constitute improper conduct under the provisions of this chapter, the Ethics Board shall conduct a public investigation.
The complaint shall be filed with the Village Clerk-Treasurer, except that if the complaint is of improper conduct of the Clerk-Treasurer, it shall be filed with the Village President. Upon the filing of a written complaint, the Village Clerk-Treasurer shall promptly forward to the Ethics Board a copy of the complaint and the personal/financial disclosure statement of each person who is complained about.
Upon conclusion of the ethics investigation, the Ethics Board shall, in written findings of fact and conclusions based thereon, offer an opinion concerning the validity of the complaint. If reasonable grounds exist which in the opinion of the Ethics Board lead the Board to believe that improper conduct has occurred, the Ethics Board shall refer the matter to the Village Board for further action, which may, but need not, include recall proceedings, discharge or referral to appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Once the investigation is completed, the Ethics Board may issue a summary of the complaint and its opinion for the public record.
Release of information. If the Ethics Board finds reasonable grounds to believe that improper conduct by an elected official of the Village, a member of a board or committee, an employee or agent or a person furnishing contracted services to the Village, its boards or committees, subject to this chapter or by a member of the Ethics Board and further finds that there is a probable violation of the Wisconsin Statutes, the Ethics Board shall authorize the release to the District Attorney of any information, records, complaints, documents, reports and transcripts in its possession, if such release is material to any matter being investigated or prosecuted by the District Attorney. The person cited by the findings of the Ethics Board may request the Ethics Board to withhold any information, records, documents, reports and transcripts that were placed before the Board on behalf of his defense. The Ethics Board shall grant such a request.
Report of improper conduct. The Ethics Board shall be required to report a reasonable belief of improper conduct only when there has been a vote of 4/5 of the members of the Ethics Board, except the cause of its own member or in an abstention, when 3/4 shall be sufficient.
Applicability of code. When an official, employee or agent has doubt as to the applicability of a provision of this chapter, such official, employee or agent should apply to the Ethics Board for an advisory opinion. The official, employee or agent shall have the opportunity to present his interpretation of the facts at issue and of the applicability of the provisions of this chapter before such advisory decision is made. This chapter shall be operative in all instances covered by its provisions, except when superseded by an applicable statutory provision and statutory action is mandatory or when the application of a statutory provision is discretionary but determined by the Ethics Board to be more appropriate or desirable.
The Village Clerk-Treasurer shall provide copies of this chapter annually to elected and appointed officials, candidates for political office and the designated employees of the Village who are required to file disclosure statements annually and shall keep at least one copy permanently on file for the use of the public. All employees shall receive a copy when they are hired.
Wisconsin has expressed its policy requiring open meetings of government bodies. The law with regard to open meetings is embodied in Subchapter V of Chapter 19 of the Wisconsin Statutes. The declaration of policy is set forth in § 19.81, Wis. Stats. That declaration of policy is: "In recognition of the fact that a representative government of the American type is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be the policy of this state that the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business. To implement and ensure the public policy above expressed, all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law."
Exceptions to the open meeting law. Any governmental body may convene in closed session under certain exemptions which are set forth in § 19.85, Wis. Stats. The exemptions offer the governmental body the opportunity to consider matters in closed session when the public welfare requires secrecy. The exemptions set forth in § 19.85, Wis. Stats., allow the governmental body and the members thereof to avoid discussing such matters in open session when the public welfare requires secrecy and an exemption apply.
To benefit from the right bestowed upon the members of the governmental body by § 19.85, Wis. Stats., to convene in closed session, that benefit should not be made valueless by members of the governmental body prematurely disseminating closed session information to members of the public prior to the reason for the closed session having been extinguished. It is the responsibility of each Trustee to uphold the right so given and to not publish the same until the purpose of the closed session has been extinguished.
All Trustees have a duty to refrain from disseminating information circulated during a closed session convened under on or more of the exemptions provided in § 19.85, Wis. Stats., and properly noticed. This duty is a continuing duty until the reason for the closed session has been extinguished. A violation of this duty is considered neglect of duty.
No Trustee shall directly or indirectly disseminate any information discussed at a properly authorized, noticed, and convened closed session in such a manner as to potentially alter or affect the deliberative process until the reason for the closed session has been extinguished.
Violation of any provision of this chapter may constitute a cause for recall of an elected official of the Village or of a member of a board or committee and consequent removal from office or, in the case of an employee, agent or a person furnishing contracted services to the Village, its boards or committees subject to this chapter, may constitute cause for removal from office or employment or other disciplinary action. All matters contained in this chapter are subject to the Constitutions and laws of the United States and the state.
Except as otherwise provided, any person found in violation of this chapter or any order, rule or regulation made hereunder shall be subject to the penalty provided in § 1-4 of the Code of the Village of Bellevue.