[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town of Salem as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted by the Board of Selectmen 11-14-1977, last reaffirmed 4-2-2013 (Ch. 40, Art. I, of the 1995 Code); amended and approved 7-13-2020]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also amended the title of this article, which was formerly Code of Ethics for Selectmen.
The proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials be independent, impartial and responsible to the people; that governmental decisions and policy be made in the proper channels of the governmental structure; that public office not be used for personal gain; and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government. In recognition of these goals, there is hereby established a Code of Ethics for boards, committees and commissions. The purpose of this code is to establish ethical standards of conduct for boards, committees and commissions by setting forth those acts or actions that are incompatible with the best interest of the Town and by directing disclosure by such officials of private financial or other interests in matters affecting the Town. The provisions and purpose of this code and such rules and regulations as may be established are hereby declared to be in the best interests of the Town of Salem.
Public officials are agents of public purpose and hold office for the benefit of the public. They are bound to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this state and to carry out impartially the laws of the nation, state and municipality and thus to foster respect for all government. They are bound to observe in their official acts the highest standards of morality and to discharge faithfully the duties of their office regardless of personal considerations, recognizing the public interest must be their primary concern.
Boards, committee and commission members should be loyal to the objectives expressed by the residents/citizens, as applicable, and the programs developed to attain those objectives.
Board, committee and commission members should not exceed their authority or breach the law. A board, committee or commission member shall not attempt to induce an officer or employee in the service of the Town or a resident of the Town to commit an unlawful act or to act in violation of any lawful statute, ordinance, regulation or legal order.
Interest in appointments. Canvassing of members of a board, committee or commission, directly or indirectly, in order to obtain preferential consideration in connection with any appointment to the Town service shall disqualify the candidate for appointment, except with reference to positions filled by appointment by the Board of Selectmen.
Use of public property. No board, committee or commission member shall request or permit the use of Town-owned vehicles, equipment, materials or property for personal convenience or profit, except when such services are available to the public generally or are provided as municipal policy for use in the conduct of official business.
Obligations to citizens. No board, committee or commission member shall grant or deny any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizen which is not available to every other citizen. Furthermore, no board, committee or commission member should make, encourage or accept any ex parte or other unilateral application or communication that excludes the interests of other parties in a matter under consideration when such application or communication is designed to influence an official decision or conduct of the official himself or other board, committee or commission members or agencies in order to obtain favored treatment or special consideration to advance the personal or private gain of himself or others.
No board, committee or commission member shall engage in any business or transaction or shall have a financial or other personal interest, direct or indirect, which is incompatible with the proper discharge of their official duties in the public interest or would tend to impair their independence of judgment or action in the performance of their official duties. Personal, as distinguished from financial, interest includes an interest arising from blood or marriage relationships or close business association. Specific conflicts of interest are enumerated below for the guidance of a board, committee or commission member:
Incompatible employment. No board, committee or commission member shall engage in or accept private employment or render services for private interests when such employment or service is incompatible with the proper discharge of their official duties or would tend to impair their independence of judgment or action in the performance of their official duties.
Disclosure of confidential information. No board, committee or commission member shall, without proper legal authorization, disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the Town, nor shall they use such information to advance the financial or other private interest of themselves or others.
Gifts and favors. No board, committee or commission member shall accept any valuable gift, whether in the form of service, loan, thing or promise, from any person, firm or corporation which to their knowledge is interested directly or indirectly in any manner whatsoever in business dealings with the Town, nor shall any such official accept any gift, favor or thing of value that may tend to influence them in the discharge of their duties or grant in the discharge of their duties any improper favor, service or thing of value.
Representing private interests before Town agencies or courts.
No board, committee or commission member shall appear in their official capacity on behalf of any private interest(s) before any agency of the Town.
Board, committee or commission members shall not represent private interests in any action or proceeding against the interests of the Town in any litigation to which the Town is a party.
A board, committee or commission member may appear before Town agencies on behalf of constituents in the course of their duties as a representative of the electorate or in performance of public or civic obligations. However, no board, committee or commission member shall receive any gift or compensation that is contingent upon a specific action by a Town agency.
Contracts with the Town. Any board, committee or commission member who has a substantial or controlling financial interest in any business entity, transaction or contract with the Town or in the sale of real estate, materials, supplies or services to the Town shall make known to the proper authority such interest in any matter on which they may be called to act in their official capacity. They shall refrain from voting upon or otherwise participating in the transaction or the making of such contract or sale. A board, committee or commission member shall not be deemed interested in any contract or purchase or sale of land or other thing of value unless such contract or sale is approved, awarded, entered into or authorized by them in his official capacity.
Disclosure of interest in legislation. A board, committee or commission member who has a financial or other private interest in any legislation shall disclose on the records of the board, committee or commission or other appropriate authority the nature and extent of such interest. This provision shall not apply if the board, committee or commission member disqualifies themselves from voting.
Administrative relationship. Neither the board, committee or commission nor any of its members shall direct or request the appointment of any person to or his removal from office by the Town Manager or by any of his subordinates or in any manner take part in the appointment or removal of officers and employees in the administrative service of the Town unless otherwise provided in law. The board, committee or commission and its members shall deal with the administrative service solely through the board, committee or commission liaison for that entity, and neither the board, committee or commission nor any member thereof, except as authorized by statute or local ordinance, shall give direct orders to any subordinates of the Town Manager, either publicly or privately.
No board, committee or commission member or candidate for the office of that board, committee or commission shall promise an appointment to any municipal position as a reward for any political activity. A board, committee or commission member shall not attempt to use or threaten to use personal or political influence to secure a promotion, leave of absence, transfer, change in rate of pay or character of work, for any Town employee. "Personal influence" under this section shall mean any activity inconsistent with recognized practices allowed by the laws of the State of New Hampshire and the Town of Salem.
When a board, committee or commission member has doubt as to the applicability of a provision of this code to a particular situation, they should apply to the board, committee or commission for an advisory opinion and be guided by that opinion when given.
The applicant should not vote in the proceedings of the board, committee or commission leading to the advisory opinion.
Any member of the board, committee or commission may question the applicability of the code regarding another member of the board, committee or commission. Said member shall request a meeting of the board, committee or commission for an advisory opinion, and all parties shall be guided by that opinion when given. Action taken under this section should be considered by the board, committee or commission as a legal matter and acted on accordingly. The board, committee or commission member shall have the opportunity to present their interpretation of the facts at issue and of the applicable provision(s) of the code before such advisory decision is made. This code shall be operative in all instances covered by its provisions except when superseded by an applicable statutory or charter provision and statutory or charter action is mandatory or when the application of a statutory or charter provision is discretionary but determined to be more appropriate or desirable.
Violation of any provisions of this code should raise conscientious questions for the board, committee or commission member concerned as to whether voluntary resignation or other action is indicated to promote the best interests of the Town. Violation may constitute a cause for such action as implementation of disciplinary action as prescribed by state statute.
As a board, committee or commission member, I believe: that the proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials be independent and impartial in their judgment and actions; that government decisions and policy be made in the proper channels of the governmental structure; that public office not be used for personal gain; that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government and public officials; and that the realization of these ends is impaired whenever there exists or appears to exist an actual or potential conflict between the private interests of a governmental official and his public duties. The public interest requires ethical standards with respect to official conduct. I believe it is my duty to:
Respect the importance of American ideals of government, of the rule of law, of the principles of public administration and of ethical conduct in the performance of my public duties.
Represent and work for the common good of the Town of Salem and not for private interest, assuring fair and equal treatment of all persons, claims and transactions coming before me in my official capacity.
Refrain from accepting gifts or favors or promises of future benefit which might compromise or tend to impair my independence of judgment or action as a board, committee or commission member.
Learn the background and purposes of major motions before voting.
Faithfully perform my duties as a board, committee or commission member by attending all sessions of the Board and of its committees of which I am a member, unless unable to do so for some compelling reason or disability.
Help the Board maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct by refusing to approve breaches of public trust or improper attempts to influence legislation and by being willing to vote to censure or otherwise discipline any member who willfully violates the duly established rules of conduct for the board, committee or commission.
Disclose all sources of income which may represent a substantial conflict of interest with my duties as a board, committee or commission member and to disclose the nature and extent of my interest as an officer, agent, member or owner of any business entity or other association which is doing business with the Town of Salem, such disclosure to be made to the board, committee or commission.
Refuse to represent private interests before Town agencies or in the courts, except as may be my duty toward constituents, such service to be rendered without compensation, and refuse to accept or engage in any employment incompatible with my public duties.
Disclose any private interest I may have in legislation before the board, committee or commission, or to refrain from voting when such interest is in substantial conflict with my public duties.
Refrain from disclosing confidential information concerning any employee, resident or the Town of Salem itself.
Nothing in any established ethical standards, bylaws, or regulations of other boards, committees or commissions shall supersede Salem Municipal Code Chapter 33, as applicable.
Effective January 1, 1980, no employee of the Town of Salem will be allowed to engage in secondary employment or to hold an interest in any business venture operating within the limits of the Town of Salem which has, as a result of federal, state or local legislation, the requirement for inspection and/or regulation by the department to which the employee is assigned and will utilize information available to an employee in his/her specific capacity with the Town which could be considered sensitive, classified, or privileged information to which the employee would not be otherwise entitled.
Any exceptions to this policy must be approved by the Town Manager in writing.
In order for an exception to be considered, the following conditions must be met:
The employee requesting the exception must have been employed by the Town of Salem on or prior to December 6, 1979.
The employee must substantiate that the secondary employment or business venture for which the exception is being applied was actively pursued or operated by the employee prior to and through December 6, 1979.
The interest of the Town and the particular department can be met and the requirement for inspection or regulation accommodated outside of the department which employs the individual requesting exception at no additional expense or inconvenience to the Town.
Reasonable standards or conditions to eliminate possible conflicts of interest can be established and agreed upon by the employee and the Town.
No previous agreement related to the secondary employment or business venture for which the exception is being applied has been made between the employee and the Town.