[HISTORY: Adopted by the Common Council of the City of Watertown 7-19-1988 by Ord. No. 88-52 (Ch. 30 of the former City Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
The proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made in the proper channels of the government 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 all City of Watertown officials and employees, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, including members of boards, committees and commissions of the City.
The purpose of the code is to establish guidelines for ethical standards of conduct for all such officials and employees by setting forth those acts or actions that are incompatible with the best interests of the City of Watertown and by directing disclosure by such officials and employees of private financial or other interests in matters affecting the City. The Common Council recognizes that the representatives of the City are drawn from society and therefore cannot and should not be without all personal and economic interest in the decisions and policies of government; that citizens who serve as City officials and employees retain their rights as citizens to have interests of a personal and economic nature; that the standards of ethical conduct for City officials and employees need to distinguish between those minor and inconsequential conflicts that are unavoidable in a free society and those conflicts which are substantial and material; and that City officials and employees may need to engage in employment, professional or business activities other than official duties in order to support themselves or their families and to maintain a continuity of professional or business activity or may need to maintain investments, which activities or investments do not conflict with the specific provisions of this code. The provisions and purpose of this code and such rules and regulations as may be established are hereby declared to be in the best public interest.
It is the intent of the Common Council that in its operations the Board of Ethics shall protect to the fullest extent possible the rights of individuals affected.
Public officials and employees 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 of 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 that the public interest must be their primary concern.
There are certain provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes which should, while not set forth herein, 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 public officials and employees whenever applicable:
As used in this chapter, 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.
- FINANCIAL INTEREST
- Any interest which shall yield directly or indirectly a monetary or other material benefit to the officer or employee or to any person employing or retaining the services of the officer or employee.
- Any person, corporation, partnership or joint venture.
Use of public property. No official or employee shall request or permit the unauthorized use of City-owned vehicles, equipment, materials or property for personal convenience or profit.
Obligations to citizens. No official or employee shall grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizen beyond that which is available to every other citizen.
No official or employee shall accept anything of value, whether in the form of a gift, service, loan or promise, from any person which may tend to impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of his or her official duties. It is not a conflict of interest for any public employee or public official to receive a gift or gratuity that is an unsolicited item of nominal intrinsic value.
No public official or employee shall engage in any business or transaction or shall act in regard to any financial interest, direct or indirect, which is incompatible with the proper discharge of his or her official duties for the benefit of the public, contrary to the provisions of this code or which would tend to impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of his or her official duties. Any 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 said official or employee to be interested directly or indirectly in any manner whatsoever in business dealings with the City upon which the official or employee has any influence or input or over which the official or employee has any jurisdiction, discretion or control shall disclose the nature and value of such gifts to the Ethics Board by January 20 next following the year in which the gift or gifts are received.
No public official or employee 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 or her official duties or would tend to impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of his or her official duties, unless otherwise permitted by law, unless disclosure is made as hereinafter provided.
No public official or employee and no business in which a City official or public employee holds a ten-percent or greater interest may enter into a contract with the City of Watertown involving a payment or payments of more than $3,000 within a twelve-month period unless said official or employee has first made a written disclosure of the nature and extent to such relationship or interest to the Board and to the department acting for the City in regard to such contract. This subsection does not affect the application of § 946.13, Wis. Stats.
No official or employee shall disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of this City, nor shall he or she use such information to advance the financial or other private interest of himself or herself or any other person.
Disclosure of interest in legislation. Any member of the Common Council who has a financial interest in any proposed legislation before the Common Council shall disclose on the records of the Common Council the nature and extent of such interest prior to or during the initial discussion on said legislation. Any other official or employee who has a financial interest in any proposed legislative action of the Common Council and who participates in discussion with or gives an official opinion or recommendation to the Common Council shall disclose, on the records of the Common Council, the nature and extent of such interest.
There is hereby created an Ethics Board consisting of three members and one alternate member, who shall serve without compensation unless the Common Council otherwise provides. The members of the Board of Ethics shall be residents of the City and shall not be elected officials, full-time appointed officials or City employees, nor shall they be currently serving on any other City board or commission. Each member shall be appointed by the Mayor, subject to the confirmation by the Common Council. The City Attorney shall furnish the Board whatever legal assistance is necessary in the carrying out of its functions. Terms of office shall be three years, except that when the initial appointments are made, one member shall be appointed for one year, one for two years, and one for three years. The alternate shall serve on the Board when one of the members of the Board is unavailable. The term of the alternate shall be for three years. The Ethics Board shall elect its own Chairperson and Vice Chairperson.
The Ethics Board shall adopt and develop written rules, which shall be submitted to the Common Council for approval. A copy of such rules shall be filed with the City Clerk/Treasurer.
Any person to whom this chapter applies 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 interpretations 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 in meetings not open to the public. Records of the Board's opinions, opinion requests and investigations of violations shall be closed to public inspection. 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, or make upon its own motion, a verified complaint in writing, which shall state the name of the officer or employee alleged to have committed a violation of this chapter and which shall set forth the particulars thereof. The Board shall forward, within 10 days, a copy of the complaint to the officer or employee who is accused. If no action on the verified complaint is taken by the Board within 60 days, the complaint shall be void.
Following the receipt or motion of a verified complaint, the Board may make preliminary investigations with respect to alleged violations of this chapter. No preliminary investigation of the activities of any officer or employee may be initiated unless such officer or employee 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.
If, after such investigation, the Board finds that probable cause exists to believe the allegations of the complaint, it shall conduct a hearing on the matter, which shall be held not more than 30 days after such finding. The Board shall give the accused at least 20 days' notice of the hearing date. Such hearing shall be at closed session, unless the accused petitions for a hearing open to the public. The rules of civil 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.
[Amended by Ord. No. 89-12]
During all stages of any investigation or proceeding conducted under this section, the accused or any person 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 all 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.
Determination. 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 officer or employee and, if appropriate, refer the matter to the Common Council or other proper authority with a recommendation for suspension, removal from office or employment or other disciplinary action.
This code 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.
A determination that a public official's or public employee's actions constitute improper conduct under the provisions of this chapter may constitute a cause for removal from office, termination of employment, suspension, reprimand or other appropriate disciplinary action. As an alternative or in addition to sanctions imposed herein, any individual violating the Ethics Code shall be subject to a nonreimbursable forfeiture of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 as determined by the City of Watertown Common Council.