[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Wallingford 3-26-2019 by Ord. No. 625. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 20, Ethics, Code of, adopted 2-23-1982 by Ord. No. 294, as amended.
The concept of ethics is a field based on the philosophy that standards of conduct can be expressed in an objective manner consistent with societal considerations and codified into established conventions, thus generating accepted professional standards of conduct. In applying this concept of ethics to municipal government, the professional standards of conduct for officials and employees of the Town of Wallingford are set forth in the Constitution of the United States, federal laws and regulations, the Constitution and General Statutes of the State of Connecticut, the Town Charter and ordinances and resolutions of the Town of Wallingford (including this Code of Ethics) and generally accepted societal norms and conventions for proper and ethical conduct.
The proper operation of Town government in Wallingford requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial and responsible to the people whom they serve; that governmental decisions and policies be made in the proper channels of the governmental structure; that public office and employment not be used for personal gain; and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government. The purpose of this Code of Ethics is to set forth standards of ethical conduct supplementing existing standards as referenced in § 20-1, to assist public officials and employees in establishing guidelines for their conduct and to develop and maintain a tradition of responsible and effective public service. In recognition of these goals, there is hereby established for the Town of Wallingford the following Code of Ethics.
As used in this Code of Ethics, the following words or phrases, unless a different meaning is required by the context or is specifically prescribed, shall have the following meanings:
- Includes the Town Council, all departments, the Board of Education and appointed commissions and committees.
- ENTITY CLOSELY ASSOCIATED
- Any entity through which business for profit or not for profit is conducted in which the public official or their relation is a director, officer or holder of an ownership interest. An unpaid member (but not a director or officer) of a non-profit entity is exempt from this definition.
- A. Any interest, direct or indirect, which is of financial or personal value to the Town official or employee which is not common to the interest of other citizens of the Town. Interest shall include the private interest arising from relations as defined herein or close business association. Interest shall also include the interest of any subcontractor in any prime contract with the Town and the interest of any person or his/her immediate family in any corporation, firm or partnership which has a direct or indirect interest in any transaction with the Town; "transaction" shall include the offer, sale or furnishing of any real or personal property, material, supplies or services by any person, directly or indirectly, as vendor, prime contractor, subcontractor or otherwise, for the use and benefit of the Town for a valuable consideration.
- B. A Town official or employee has an indirect interest if they are likely to receive a benefit or loss (financial or otherwise) as a consequence of a benefit or loss incurred by a relation or entity closely associated to the person. An indirect interest also exists if the official or employee has a conflict of duty as a result of a benefit or loss incurred by a relation or closely associated entity.
- OFFICIAL OR EMPLOYEE OF THE TOWN
- Members and employees of the Town Council, boards, commissions, committees, departments or other agencies, whether the officials are elected or appointed, and shall include all officers and employees of the Board of Education, but shall not mean Justices of the Peace.
- PERSONAL VALUE
- A nonfinancial interest or special treatment/detriment that is not common to other Town citizens.
- PROBABLE CAUSE
- Evidence that provides reasonable grounds to believe it likely that a violation has occurred. Probable cause is more than a mere suspicion but less than a preponderance of the evidence. To find probable cause, there must be sufficient facts to justify a reasonable person in the belief that there are reasonable grounds for prosecuting the complaint.
- A. Blood relations shall include grandparent, parent, brother/sister, child, grandchild, aunt/uncle, nephew/niece and first cousin, whether such relations occur through blood lineage or adoption.
- B. Relations by marriage shall include the current spouse and all blood relations of said spouse as defined above.
- C. Immediate family shall include grandparent, parent, brother/sister, child and grandchild, whether such relations occur through blood lineage or adoption, as well as the current spouse and his/her immediate family as defined above.
No official or employee shall have any interest, direct or indirect, or engage in any transaction or professional activity or incur any obligation of any nature which is in conflict with the proper discharge of his/her duties in the public interest or which will impair his/her independence of judgment or action in the performance of his/her official duties or which will cause him/her to violate § 20-9 of this Code of Ethics. Any real or potential conflict of interest shall be disclosed by the official or employee in accordance with the provisions of the Town Charter.
No official or employee who serves as an officer or director of a closely associated entity shall participate, act or vote on any matter directly affecting the entity.
Obligations to citizens. No official or employee shall grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any person beyond that which is available to every other person similarly situated.
Use of public property. No official or employee shall use Town-owned vehicles, equipment, materials or property, except in the line of duty or when such service is available to the general public or when properly authorized, in writing, by the department head.
An official or employee of the Town of Wallingford may serve as a commissioner, director or officer of another municipality or quasi-government agency unless prohibited by law, and such service shall not, in and of itself, be deemed to be a conflict of interest. The official or employee shall not, however, render any services to said entities incompatible with the proper discharge of their public duties or which could impair their independence or impartiality of judgment in the performance of their public duties.
No official or employee shall knowingly render or agree to render for compensation or otherwise any service to any person or party other than the Town of Wallingford in connection with any cause, proceeding, application or other matter which is before any Town agency. This does not prohibit any Town official or employee from appearing before any board or commission on his/her own behalf.
No official or employee shall engage in or accept private employment or render services for private interests when the employment or service is incompatible with the proper discharge of his/her official duties or would tend to impair his/her independence or judgment or action in the performance of his/her official duty or cause him/her to violate § 20-9 of this Code.
Any official or employee who shall desire to accept private employment or render services to private interests where such involves a potential conflict as cited above may submit his/her prospective employment to his/her immediate superior, if an employee, or to the Town Council, if an official, for proper clearance of the prospective employment's compatibility with the public functions or duties of the official or employee.
No official or employee shall solicit or negotiate for or promise to accept future employment in a manner which is incompatible with his/her official duties and the discharge thereof.
Except as may be required by law, no Town official or employee, without proper authorization, shall disclose confidential information concerning the property or affairs of government of the Town, nor shall be/she use such information or special knowledge to advance the financial or other private interests of himself/herself or others.
Violation of any provisions of this Code of Ethics should raise conscientious questions for the official or employee concerned as to whether voluntary resignation or other self-initiated action is indicated to promote the best interest of the Town.
Any violation of the Town Charter and/or this Code of Ethics which is demonstrated to have occurred with the forethought and deliberate intent of the official or employee involved shall be cause for initiation of removal proceedings in accordance with the provisions of the Town Charter in the case of an appointed official or, in the case of an employee, a referral to the department head for appropriate disciplinary action.
Any violation of the Town Charter and/or this Code of Ethics without the demonstrated forethought and deliberate intent of the official or employee involved may be subject to disciplinary action at the discretion of the appointing authority in the case of appointed officials and the individual's supervisor in the case of employees. Upon finding a violation, the Board may, in its discretion, recommend to the appropriate authority appropriate action for the disposition of the matter.
There shall be a Board of Ethics constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Town Charter of the Town of Wallingford. The Board of Ethics shall have such powers and duties as set forth in said Charter, this Code and other applicable ordinances and/or state law.
The Board of Ethics shall elect biennially a Chairperson from its own membership, who shall serve a two-year term beginning on January 1 of each even-numbered year. The Board shall establish its own rules of procedure, except that rules of procedure governing Subsections D and E below shall be approved by the Law Department, consistent with this Code. Rules of procedure adopted by the Board shall be filed with the Town Clerk and available for public inspection. Three members shall constitute a quorum.
Advisory opinions. The Board shall provide advisory opinions to any Town official or employee upon their written request regarding the requirements of this Code of Ethics. Upon request of the official or employee, and only as permitted by law, the Board shall keep the name of the requestor and any identifying information confidential. In such cases, a redacted opinion shall be made public.
Investigation by the Board.
Upon receipt of a properly prepared written complaint signed under penalty of false statement alleging a specific violation of the Town Charter and/or this Code of Ethics and naming the official involved, the Board shall have the power to investigate such complaint. The Board shall provide a copy of the complaint to the respondent within five business days of receipt.
The Board shall review the complaint to determine whether or not the allegations, if proven, would constitute a violation of any provision of the Town Charter and/or this Code of Ethics. If the Board determines that the complaint does not allege sufficient facts to constitute a violation, the Board shall dismiss the complaint and duly notify the complainant and respondent.
If the Board determines that the complaint alleges sufficient facts to constitute a violation, the Board shall proceed with an investigation to determine if there is probable cause. In conducting its investigation, the Board may obtain any documents and may interview any witnesses it deems necessary to make a probable cause determination. The Board shall provide the complainant and respondent the opportunity to be heard at the probable-cause stage in a manner determined by the Board. The Board may also obtain assistance in its investigation as deemed necessary.
All complaints, probable-cause investigations and hearings shall be kept confidential by all parties and the Board prior to a determination of probable cause; the complainant's failure to maintain the confidentiality of the complaint is cause to dismiss the complaint without investigation or ruling unless the Board, for good cause shown, determines that the complaint should not be dismissed. Respondent may waive the confidentiality of the complaint at any time.
Upon completing its investigation, the Board shall determine if there is probable cause that a violation occurred and, if so, proceed to a public hearing as provided herein. If the Board determines that there is no probable cause and dismisses the complaint, the complaint shall remain confidential in accordance with law unless the confidentiality is waived by the respondent.
If the Board finds probable cause, it shall make such determination public within two business days of such determination.
Probable-cause determinations shall be made within 45 days of receipt of the complaint unless the Board, in its discretion, votes to extend the time for completion.
Hearings on complaint upon finding of probable cause.
Upon a finding of probable cause, the Board shall schedule a hearing and provide the complainant and respondent with at least 10 days' notice of the date, time and place of the hearing. Said hearing shall commence within 30 days of the probable-cause finding.
Subsequent to the filing of the original complaint and prior to the close of the hearing, the Board may at its discretion amend any complaint filed with it to include violations which it believes may have been committed by the respondent. Any such amendment shall be in writing, and a copy shall be sent to the complainant and respondent within three days of its preparation by the Board.
Hearings on the complaint shall be recorded.
The Board's rules and regulations for the hearing shall include, at a minimum, the following:
Evidence will be taken under oath; the complainant and respondent shall have the right to examine and cross-examine witnesses and present evidence on their own behalf;
The complainant and respondent may be represented by counsel;
In accordance with law, the Board may subpoena witnesses and/or may compel the production of documents.
The hearing shall be concluded within 60 days of its commencement unless extended by the Board for reasonable cause. If the complaint is amended by the Board during the hearing, the Board shall modify the time requirements as needed or upon reasonable request of either party.
The Board shall render a decision within 21 days of the closing of the hearing. The decision shall be reduced to writing, and the complainant and the respondent shall be provided the written decision within 15 days of the decision.
The Board shall provide a copy of its memorandum of decision, which may include a recommendation for appropriate action, with the designated authority for appropriate action pursuant to this section, if the Board determines that the respondent has, in fact, violated the provisions herein.
In the performance of its duties and in the exercise of its powers, the Board shall not incur any expense in excess of the funds appropriated by the Town Council for such purposes. In order to ensure the proper execution of the Board's duties, the Town Council shall provide a minimum of $500 in the Board's annual budget.
If any section, clause, provision or portion of this Code of Ethics shall be held to be invalid or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, such holding shall not affect or impair any other section, clause, provision, or portion of this Code.
This Code of Ethics shall not be in conflict with, but rather in addition to, any general or specific law relating to ethical conduct and interest in contracts by Town officials and employees.
This Code of Ethics shall become effective as provided in Chapter III, Section 7, of the Town Charter.
Copies of this Code shall be distributed to all elected and appointed officials and departments as of that date and shall also be provided to all newly elected and appointed officials subsequent to that date; copies shall also be provided to all department heads, and copies shall be made available to the general public in the office of the Town Clerk.