[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town of Burlington 11-18-1999. Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is the declared policy of the Town of Burlington that Town office or employment not be used for personal gain and that the residents have complete and well-founded confidence in the integrity of its government. To successfully operate a democratic form of government, Town officers, employees and agents must be independent, impartial and accountable to the people within the Town. This Code of Ethics is designed to assure that the Town maintains that confidence in the Town legislative, executive, ministerial and administrative processes and in the individuals who are performing public duties.
Personal gain. Town officers, employees and agents shall not abuse their office, appointment, employment or special knowledge of Town affairs to procure contracts or to in any other way influence or obtain financial gain for themselves or others.
Preferential treatment. Town officers, employees and agents shall not grant consideration, treatment or advantage to any person beyond that which is available to every other citizen.
Coercion. Town officers, employees and agents shall refrain from attempting to coerce anyone concerning the awarding of contracts; the granting of approvals by any Town board, commission, or Town department; political gain; or appointment to or promotion in service with the Town.
Disclosure of interest. Any Town officer, employee, or agent having a financial, business or personal interest or financial gain in or from any matter to be acted upon or coming before the office, board or commission of which he or she is a member, or to an individual over whom the Town officer, employee or agent has supervision or rank, shall make disclosure that an interest exists and shall recuse himself or herself. The disclosure shall be incorporated in the minutes of the particular board or commission or memorialized in the records of the office. Such person shall be disqualified to act in any way upon such matter.
Forbearance from solicitation of gifts. Town officers, employees or agents having the power or duty to perform an official act or action related to a contract, transaction, board or commission decision or other matter which is or may be the subject of an official act or action of the Town shall refrain from soliciting, accepting or granting a present or future gift, favor, service, or thing of monetary value from or to a person involved in such contract, transaction, decision or other matter. The aforementioned prohibition against gifts or favors shall not apply to:
Use of position to affect results. Town officers, employees or agents shall refrain from coercing or attempting to coerce anyone concerning the awarding of contracts with the Town, the deciding of applications, petitions or other requests before any board or commission or department of the Town, or other Town business.
Dissemination of information. Town officials, employees and agents shall not disseminate information to another person for personal advantage, financial gains, career advancement or political advantage.
Town officials, employees and agents shall not disclose confidential information concerning the property, government, or affairs of the Town or use such information to advance the financial or other private interest of any other Town officer, employee or agent or anyone else.
It is understood that requests for public information shall be disclosed or withheld in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. Town officials, employees or agents shall not use their office, appointment or employment for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the outcome of an election or to solicit from other employees for political purposes. Bumper stickers may be displayed on private vehicles parked in employee parking areas of Town Hall, but campaign materials may not be displayed on Town vehicles or Town property except on election day on roadsides.
Editor's Note: See C.G.S. § 1-200 et seq.
Distribution. The Town Clerk shall distribute a copy of this Code of Ethics to every Town officer, employee or agent after enactment of this chapter. Thereafter, each new Town officer, employee or agent elected, appointed or hired shall be furnished with a copy of this chapter at or before the time of hire or retention and assuming the duties of the office or position to which he/she is assigned.
Statutory conflict; elected municipal official. Notwithstanding the provisions of any special act, the Charter or other ordinance to the contrary, an elected municipal official of Burlington has an interest which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties or employment in the public interest and of his responsibilities as prescribed by the laws of this state if he has reason to believe or expect that he, his spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he is associated, as defined in C.G.S. § 1-79, will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss, as the case may be, by reason of his official activity. Any such elected municipal official does not have an interest which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest and of his responsibilities as prescribed by the laws of this state if any benefit or detriment accrues to him, his spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he, his spouse or such dependent child is associated as a member of a profession, occupation or group to no greater extent than to any other member of such profession, occupation or group. Any such elected municipal official who has a substantial conflict may not take official action on the matter.
Duties. There shall be created a Commission which shall have the duties and powers to hear complaints and rule upon the appropriate disposition of this chapter; to enforce the provisions of this chapter, including the prosecution of and hearing complaints on violations hereof; to give non-binding advice to the Board of Selectmen (hereafter "Board") or other Town officers and employees on ethical questions; and to give non-binding recommendations to the Board and Town Counsel on new and existing policies on ethics.
Members. There shall be six members consisting of no more than two nor less than one individual registered Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated respectively. Commission members shall annually elect their own Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Secretary.
Alternates. There shall be three alternates, appointed by the Board, one each registered Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated, for a term of four years. Alternates may serve in the place of an absent regular Commission member, first choice to be a member of the same political affiliation. Alternates should not vote unless seated for a regular member.
Appointment of members and alternates; eligibility.
No member of the Commission shall hold or campaign for any Town office, be a Town official, or be the chairperson or vice chairperson of a political Town committee.
A member of the Commission who, within the last three years immediately prior to receipt of a complaint, shall have held public office or have been a candidate for public office for the board or commission or department involved in the complaint shall not participate in the investigation of that complaint.
Vacancy. Any vacancy on the Commission shall be filled for the unexpired portion of the term by appointment by the Board. An individual appointed to fill a vacancy shall be eligible for appointment thereafter. Appointments shall be made utilizing persons of the same or similar political affiliation so as to continue the composition as above.
Terms. Commission members will be appointed to a term of four years, to be staggered as follows: of the first Commissioners appointed, two shall serve for four years, two for a term of three years, and two for a term of two years. Thereafter, each Commissioner shall serve for a term of four years.
Quorum. A quorum shall consist of five regular members or alternates seated for regular members. No action shall be taken in the absence of a quorum.
Compensation. There shall be no salary paid to any Commission member or alternate serving on the Commission.
Meetings. The Commission shall meet within 15 business days after establishment, after receipt of a written complaint, or otherwise as needed, upon the call of the Chairperson.
Legal counsel. The Town Counsel shall serve and advise the Commission only. Where the Town Counsel has a conflict of interest, an independent attorney shall be appointed by the Board to serve as legal counsel to the Commission for the duration of that complaint.
Where any Town officer, employee or agent has a question as to the applicability of any provision of this chapter to a particular situation, or as to the definition of terms used herein, that individual may apply to the Commission for a written advisory opinion. The individual shall be given an opportunity to present his or her interpretation of the facts at issue and of the applicability of provisions of this chapter before such advisory opinion is rendered. The Commission may seek the advice and assistance of the Town Counsel as necessary. The Commission shall issue a written advisory opinion, but shall not name the individual who requested the opinion and cause it to be circulated to Town departments, boards and commissions.
The individual(s) who sought the advisory opinion and acted on it in good faith, and any other Town officer(s), employee(s) or agents who, having obtained a copy thereof, acted on the advisory opinion in good faith and in comparable factual circumstances, shall not be determined to have violated this chapter. The Commission may, at any time, modify or revoke an advisory opinion. In such event, it shall provide written notice of its action by posting the decision in the office of the Town Clerk and circulating the decision in all departments, boards and commissions of the Town. No person shall follow or rely on an advisory opinion after the date of its modification, amendment or revocation.
In the event that a Town employee, official or appointee determines that he or she faces a situation in which some action or non-action by that individual will affect the Town and that individual believes that he or she may have a conflict or apparent conflict and time is of the essence, that individual may obtain from the Chairperson of the Commission a written temporary advisory opinion. Reliance thereon shall mean that that individual shall not be found to have violated this chapter. The Commission shall be convened within 15 days and shall review the facts and circumstances of the temporary advisory opinion and shall either ratify of modify that opinion. Upon the action of the Commission, the temporary opinion, as ratified or modified, shall be issued by the Commission as an advisory opinion.
Confidential phase. During Phases A and B the provisions of Subsections (a) to (e), inclusive, of C.G.S. § 1-82a as amended shall apply to allegations before any such agency of such conduct, influence or activities, to an investigation of such allegations conducted prior to a probable cause finding, and to a finding of probable cause or no probable cause. Any Town officer, employee or agent involved in or learning of a complaint whether against him/herself or another shall treat such information as confidential. The complainant and respondent shall also treat the complaint and the processes in Phases A and B as confidential.
Phase A, Initial Determination.
Complaints. Upon receipt of a written complaint from any person on a form prescribed by the Commission, signed under penalty of false statement, the Commission shall notify the complainant and the respondent, by registered or certified mail, of the receipt of the complaint. The Commission shall then meet to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation. If the Commission, by a vote of no fewer than four members, determines that the complaint does not warrant an investigation, the complaint shall be dismissed and notice of dismissal shall be mailed, registered or certified mail, to the complainant and the respondent.
Notice of receipt: mail within five business days of receipt.
Initial meeting: within 15 business days of receipt of complaint. There may be one continued meeting provided it occurs within 15 business days of initial meeting.
Vote: at or before the adjournment of the initial or continued meeting.
Notice of dismissal: mail within five business days of vote.
Phase B, Probable Cause - Investigation.
If the Commission in Phase A does not dismiss the complaint, the Commission shall notify the complainant and any respondent against whom such complaint is made by registered or certified mail. A copy of such complaint shall accompany such notice. The Commission shall have the power to hold hearings, administer oaths, examine witnesses, receive oral and documentary evidence and to subpoena witnesses to compel attendance and to require the production of any books, documents and electronic data in whatever form which the Commission deems relevant.
Additionally, the respondent shall, at least seven days prior to the commencement of any hearing herein, be provided with a list of the Commission's intended witnesses.
The Commission shall conclude its investigation and shall thereupon vote on the question of whether there exists probable cause to believe the respondent is in violation of this chapter. If the Commission, by a vote of no fewer than four members, determines that probable cause exists to believe the respondent is in violation of any provision of this chapter, the complainant and respondent shall be notified of the findings and a summary of the reasons in writing, by registered or certified mail. In the event probable cause is not found, the complainant and respondent shall be so notified by registered or certified mail.
Notice of decision to investigate: mail within five business days of vote required in Phase A.
Initial investigative meeting: within 15 business days of date of mailing of decision to investigate. There may be one or more continuances for the investigation meeting, provided that the required vote hereinabove be taken no later than 45 days from the date of the initial investigative meeting.
Vote: at or before the 45th day from the date of the initial investigative meeting.
Notice of no probable cause: mail within five business days of the probable cause vote.
Public phase; Phase C, Adjudication of Violation.
If after its investigation in Phase B above the Commission finds that probable cause of a violation exists it shall notify the complainant and the respondent, by certified or registered mail, and the entire record of the investigation shall be made available to the public. The Commission shall thereupon convene to determine whether there has been a violation of this chapter. The Commission shall have the same powers as specified in Phase B. The complainant and the respondent shall have the rights specified in Phase B plus either or both may request that the Commission compel by subpoena attendance of witnesses and production of books, documents, records and papers as may reasonably be required, which request(s) shall be honored unless deemed unreasonable by the Commission.
The Commission shall make a stenographic or tape-recorded record of all proceedings pursuant to this phase.
The Commission shall conclude its deliberation and thereupon vote on the question of whether the respondent is in violation of any provision of this chapter. A vote of no fewer than four members is required. If the Commission fails to find that the respondent has violated this chapter, the Commission shall dismiss the complaint. Regardless of the decision, the Commission shall notify the complainant and respondent of its decision by certified or registered mail.
Notice of probable cause: mail within five business days of the date of the vote in Phase B.
Record of investigation: deliver to Town Clerk for public review within five business days of vote in Phase B.
Initial meeting: within 15 business days of date of mailing of notice of probable cause. There may be one or more continuances upon the Commission's or the partners' request, provided that the required conclusion of deliberation and/or vote hereinabove be taken no later than 60 days from the date of the initial meeting held pursuant to Phase A.
Vote: at or before the 60th day from the date of the initial meeting of this phase.
Notice of decision: mail within five business days of the vote in Phase C.
Appeal. The respondent if aggrieved by the finding and decision may appeal therefrom to the Superior Court in accordance with the provisions of C.G.S. § 4-183.
Bias or lack of foundation.
If any complaint brought under the provisions of this chapter is made with the knowledge that it is made without foundation in fact, the respondent shall have a cause of action against the complainant who signed the written complaint for damages caused thereby, and if the respondent prevails in such action, he or she may be awarded by the court the costs of such action together with reasonable attorney fees reached in the decision for damages caused thereby. If the Town officer, employee or agent prevails, he or she may be awarded the costs of such action together with reasonable attorney fees.
If a decision reached by the Commission is found by a court of law to have been reached with deliberate bias or without foundation in fact, the Town officer, employee or agent against whom the decision was made shall have cause of action against the Commission members who reached the decision for damages caused thereby. If the Town officer, employee or agent prevails, he or she may be awarded by the court the costs of such action together with reasonable attorney fees.
Complaints; limitation period. Complaints must be made under this section within one year from the date the alleged violation is discovered but in no event longer than two years after the violation alleged in the complaint has been committed.
Any Town officer, employee or agent found by the Commission to have willfully and knowingly violated any of the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a monetary fine of not less than $10 nor more than $100. Any such penalties may be enforced by citation issued by the First Selectman or by the Board of Selectmen in the event the penalty is imposed on the First Selectman, provided that not less than five days prior to the issuance of a citation a written notice, specifying the specific violation and penalty, is sent to the respondent by certified, return receipt mail.
Upon finding a respondent in violation of this chapter, the Commission shall within five business days of the post probable cause hearing advise the Board to the Commission's finding and its recommended disciplinary action. In the case of a Town employee, the Commission shall be consistent in its recommendations with all personnel rules and regulations and all bargaining unit agreements.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- The Board of Selectmen.
- BOARD or COMMISSION
- For the purposes of this chapter, the term shall include Town board, commission, agency, committee or any other body elected or appointed, whether permanent or ad hoc, which can conduct Town business, the Board and/or the Commission, where appropriate.
- Any entity through which business for profit or not for profit is conducted, including a corporation, partnership, proprietorship, firm, enterprise, franchise, association, organization, or self-employed individual.
- BUSINESS INTEREST
- A business of which the person or a member of his immediate family is a director, officer, owner, employee, compensated agent, or holder of stock which constitutes 5% or more of the total outstanding stock of any class.
- The Ethics Commission.
- CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION
- Information, whether transmitted orally or in writing, which is obtained by reason of the public position or office held and is of such nature that it is not, at the time of transmission, a matter of public record or public knowledge.
- FINANCIAL GAIN
- The expectation, whether or not realized, of money, goods, materials, services and/or gifts of any value.
- FINANCIAL INTEREST
- Any interest with a monetary value of $1,000 or more which generates a financial gain or loss of $1,000 or more in a calendar year.
- IMMEDIATE FAMILY
- Any parent, spouse, children or dependent residing in the individual's household.
- An individual, corporation, company, business, firm, partnership or similar business entity.
- PERSONAL INTEREST
- An interest in any action taken by the municipality in which an individual will derive a non-financial benefit or detriment but which will result in the expenditure of municipal funds.
- POLITICAL GAIN
- Enhancement or attainment of political position or office or higher political office in the Town.
- The next business day after physical delivery to the Town Clerk of a written complaint addressed to the Ethics Commission, whether by personal delivery or by United States Postal Service delivery.
This chapter is created under the authority of C.G.S. § 7-148h and as amended. Any provision which is contrary to or outside the authority granted therein or in any other statute or by common law shall be deemed deleted. The remaining provisions shall remain in full force and effect.