[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Fond du Lac 6-23-1993 by Ord. No. 2679 as § 1.10 of the 1993 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The proper operation of democratic government requires that elected and appointed officials be independent, impartial and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made in proper channels of the governmental structure; that elected office not be used for personal gain; and the public have confidence in the integrity of its government. In recognition of these goals, there is hereby established a Code of Ethics for the City elected and appointed officials as well as any individuals who are candidates for elective office as soon as such individuals file nomination papers with the City. The purpose of this code is to establish guidelines for ethical standards of conduct for all such elected and appointed officials by setting forth those acts or actions that are incompatible with the best interest of the City and by directing disclosure by such officials of private financial or other interests in matters affecting the City. 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 City.
There are certain provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes which should, while not set forth in this chapter, be considered an integral part of any Code of Ethics. Accordingly, the provisions of the following sections of the Wisconsin Statutes are made a part of this Code of Ethics and shall apply to elected and appointed officials whenever applicable:
Elected and appointed officials are agents of public purpose and hold office for the benefit of the public. They are bound to uphold the United States Constitution and the Wisconsin Constitution and impartially carry out the laws of the nation, state and City. In their official acts elected and appointed officials are bound to observe the highest standards of morality and to discharge faithfully the duties of their office regardless of personal considerations, recognizing that the public interest must be their prime concern.
All elected and appointed officials of the City should be loyal to the objectives expressed by the citizens and the programs developed to attain these objectives.
Elected and appointed officials should not exceed their authority, breach the law or ask others to do so, and they should work in full cooperation with other public officials and employees unless prohibited from so doing by law or by officially recognized confidentiality of their work.
Use of public property. No elected or appointed official shall request or permit the unauthorized use of personnel, City-owned vehicles, equipment, materials or property for personal convenience, profit or political reasons.
Obligations to citizens. No elected or appointed official shall grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizen beyond that which is available to every other citizen.
The following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ANYTHING OF VALUE
- Any money or property, favor, service, payment, advance, forbearance, loan or promise of future employment, but does not include compensation and expenses paid by the state, fees, honorariums and expenses which are permitted and reported under § 19.56, Wis. Stats., and political contributions which are reported under Ch. 11, Wis. Stats. Such allowable fees and contributions shall not influence good public policy.
- APPOINTED OFFICIAL
- Any person not a City employee who is appointed by the City Manager or City Council to a City board, committee or commission.
- ELECTED OFFICIAL
- Any official of the City who holds an elective office, including all candidates for such office as soon as they have filed nomination papers with the City Clerk.
- FINANCIAL INTEREST
- Any interest which yields, directly or indirectly, a monetary or other material benefit to the elected or appointed official or to any person employing or retaining services of the elected or appointed official.
- Any natural person, corporation, partnership or joint venture.
- PERSONAL INTEREST
- Any interest arising from blood or marriage relationships or from close business or political associations, whether or not any financial interest is involved.
Financial and personal interest prohibited. No elected or appointed official, 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 official duties in the public interest, contrary to the provisions of this chapter or which would tend to impair independence of judgment or action in the performance of official duties.
Incompatible employment. No elected or appointed official 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 official duties or would tend to impair independence of judgment or action in the performance of his official duties, unless otherwise permitted by law and unless disclosure is made as provided below.
Disclosure of confidential information. No elected or appointed official shall, without proper legal authorization, disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the City nor shall such information be used to advance the financial or other private interest of the official or others. Information generated in closed session shall be confidential until such time as it is legally allowed or required to be made public.
Gifts and favors.
No elected or appointed official 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 or grant in the discharge of his duties any improper favor, service or thing of value. Any elected or appointed official 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 whatsoever in business dealings with the City upon which the official has any influence or input or over which the official has any jurisdiction, discretion or control shall disclose the nature and value of such gifts to the Ethics Board by March 31 following the year in which the gift is received.
[Amended 11-26-2019 by Ord. No. 3702]
No elected or appointed official 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.
An elected or appointed official 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 City 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 under unusual circumstances should be referred to the Ethics Board within 10 days of receipt for recommended disposition.
No elected or appointed official and no business in which an elected or appointed official holds a 10% or greater interest may enter into a contract with the City involving a payment or payments of more than $3,000 within a twelve-month period unless such official has first made a written disclosure of the nature and extent of such relationship or interest to the Ethics Board and department acting for the City in regard to such contract, with the following exceptions:
[Amended 4-24-2014 by Ord. No. 3544]
The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to the designation of a public depository of public funds.
This subsection does not affect the application of § 946.13, Wis. Stats.
Disclosure of interest in legislation. Any member of the City Council who has a financial interest or personal interest in any proposed legislation before the City Council shall disclose on the records of the Council or the Ethics Board created by this chapter the nature and extent of such interest.
Campaign contributions. Campaign contributions shall be reported by all candidates for City office in conformance with the provisions of Ch. 11, Wis. Stats. Any campaign contribution tendered to or accepted by a candidate subsequent to the final statutory report shall be reported to the Ethics Board.
[Amended 4-24-2014 by Ord. No. 3544]
Interference with election officials. No elected or appointed official or candidate for elective office shall in any manner interfere with or obstruct any local election official from performing his statutory duties and responsibilities as provided in Chs. 7, 8 and 11, Wis. Stats., unless such official is specifically authorized to perform those duties and responsibilities.
The Ethics Board shall consist of three members who shall serve without compensation unless the Council otherwise provides. The members of the Board shall be residents of the City and shall not be elected officials or City employees, nor shall they be currently serving on any other City board or commission. Each member shall be appointed by the City Council with members to be selected as follows:
If the Bar Association fails to supply a list of proposed members, the Council shall appoint a member under § 14-1 of this Code.
Terms of office shall be three years. The alternate member shall be a member of the Board whenever one of the regular members is unavailable. The Board shall elect its own Chairperson and Vice Chairperson. The City Attorney's office or its designee shall provide the Board with the legal assistance necessary to carry out its function.
The Board shall adopt and develop written rules governing its operation. A copy of such rules shall be filed with the City Clerk.
An elected or appointed official covered by this code may apply to the Ethics Board for an advisory opinion and shall be guided by the opinion rendered. Such person shall have the opportunity to present his interpretation of the facts at issue and of the applicability of provisions of the code before the advisory decision is rendered. The Board's deliberations and action upon such applications shall be conducted in meetings not open to the public to the extent allowed under Ch. 19, Wis. Stats. Records of the Board's opinions, opinion requests and investigations of violations shall also be closed to public inspection to the extent allowed under Ch. 19, Wis. Stats. The Board, however, may make such records public with the consent of the individual requesting the advisory opinion.
The Board shall investigate any complaint properly filed with it.
The Board shall accept from any person a written, verified complaint stating the name of the official alleged to have committed a violation of this chapter and the particulars thereof. The information contained in such complaint shall be kept confidential until a finding is made by the Board under Subsection F. The Board shall forward within 10 days a copy of the complaint to the elected or appointed official who is accused. If no action on the verified complaint is taken by the Board within 60 days, the complaint shall be void and the Board shall issue a formal finding of no probable cause in the matter.
Following the receipt or motion of a verified complaint, the Board may make preliminary investigations with respect to alleged violation of this chapter. No preliminary investigation of the activities of any elected or appointed official may be initiated unless such official is notified in writing. The notice shall state the exact nature and purpose of the investigation, the individual's specific actions or activities to be investigated and a statement of such person's due process rights. Information gathered during the preliminary investigation shall be kept confidential until a finding is made by the Board under Subsection F.
If, after such investigation, the Board finds that probable cause exists for believing the allegations of the complaint, it shall conduct a hearing on the matter which shall be held not more than 60 days after such finding. The Board shall give the accused at least 20 days' notice of the hearing date. Such hearings shall be conducted in open session unless the accused petitions for a hearing closed to the public and closure is authorized by § 19.85, Wis. Stats. The rules of criminal evidence shall apply to such hearings. All evidence, including certified copies of records and documents which the Board considers, shall be fully offered and made part of the record in the case. Every party shall be afforded adequate opportunity to rebut or offer countervailing evidence.
During all stages of any proceeding conducted under this section, the elected or appointed official whose activities are under investigation shall be entitled to be represented by counsel of his own choosing.
The accused or his representative shall have an adequate opportunity to examine all documents and records to be used at the hearing under Subsection F at a reasonable time before the date of the hearing as well as during the hearing, to bring witnesses, to establish pertinent facts and circumstances and to question or refute any testimony or evidence, including opportunity to confront and cross examine adverse witnesses.
The Board shall have the power to compel the attendance of witnesses and to issue subpoenas granted other boards and commissions under § 885.01(3), Wis. Stats.
Upon conclusion of the hearing the Board shall file its decision within five days, in writing, signed by all participating Board members with findings of fact and conclusions of law concerning the propriety of the conduct of the official and, if appropriate, refer the matter to the City Council or other proper authority with a recommendation for censure or other disciplinary action. A member of the Council censured may be subject to recall under § 9.10, Wis. Stats., or any other legal process authorized by law.
A majority vote of the Board shall be required for any action taken by the Board, with the exception that action taken by the Board pursuant to a hearing conducted under Subsection F shall require a unanimous vote.
If the Board by unanimous vote at any time after an investigation has commenced finds that any complaint filed had no basis in fact and was frivolous or was brought for the purpose of harassment, it may award the costs of the proceedings, including reasonable attorneys' fees, to the accused and assess those costs against the complainant.
This Code of Ethics shall apply 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 City Clerk shall provide copies of this code to elected and appointed officials covered by this code and shall keep at least one copy permanently on file for the use of the public.