[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Weyauwega 10-19-2015 by Ord. No. 2015-4. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor’s Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 47, Ethics, adopted 5-21-2001 by Ord. No. 2001-01 as Title 2, Ch. 5 of the 2001 Code, as amended.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- Any representative, including only those City employees specifically designated by the Board, whose function is to bring about, modify, affect, accept performance of or terminate contractual obligations between the City and third persons. All other nondesignated full- or part-time City employees are specifically excluded from this definition.
- CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION
- Written material or oral information related to City government, which is not otherwise subject to release under the public records law and which is expressly designated or marked as confidential.
- Any individual employed by the City to perform including those holding local public office.
- FINANCIAL INTEREST
- Any interest which shall yield directly a monetary or other material benefit to the official, employee or agent or to any person employing or retaining the services of the official, employee or agent.
- IMMEDIATE FAMILY
- The official's or employee's spouse and any relative by marriage, lineal descent or adoption who receives, directly or indirectly, more than 1/2 of his support from the official or employee.
- IMPROPER CONDUCT
- Any violations of this chapter.
- Any elected or appointed office holder of the City. These include, but are not limited to, Mayor, Alderman, Clerk, and Assessor.
- Any natural person, corporation, partnership or joint venture.
- A person related by blood as a first cousin or closer in kinship; a person related by blood to one's spouse as a first cousin or closer in kinship; or a person who through adoption is related to one's self or one's spouse as a first cousin or closer in kinship.
High moral and ethical standards are essential to the operation of free government. This code of ethics is established for all City officials, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, all City employees and agents of the City, all members of City boards and committees and persons furnishing contracted services to the City and its boards and committees. This code establishes guidelines for ethical standards of conduct for all such officials, employees, agents, committee and board members and persons furnishing contracted services. It directs disclosure by officials, board and committee members, employees, agents and candidates for City office of private financial or other interests in matters affecting the City.
This code of ethics does not prohibit City officials from having other employment and financial interests. City officials, however, need to distinguish between inconsequential conflicts which are unavoidable and those conflicts which are substantial. The purpose of this code is to help City officials in avoiding serious conflicts of interest and promote confidence in our local government.
Elected and appointed officials, committee and board members and employees of the City shall work for the benefit of the public and are bound to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin and to carry out independently and impartially the laws of the nation, state and City; serve in their official acts the highest standards of morality; and to discharge faithfully the duties of their office/position regardless of personal consideration, recognizing that public interests must be their prime concern.
The provisions of the following sections of the Wisconsin Statutes are made part of this chapter and shall apply to elected and appointed officials whenever applicable:
Wis. Stats. § 19.59, Codes of ethics for local government officials, employees and candidates.
Wis. Stats. §§ 19.81 through 19.98, Open Meetings of Governmental Bodies.
Wis. Stats. § 946.10, Bribery of public officers and employees.
Wis. Stats. § 946.11, Special privileges from public utilities.
Wis. Stats. § 946.12, Misconduct in public office.
Wis. Stats. § 946.13, Private interest in public contract prohibited.
A City official, board or committee member or employee shall not use his or her position or office to obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value for his or her own personal benefit other than salary and benefits which he or she is due. These individuals should avoid promoting the special interests of any persons or group other than the best interests of the City.
A City official, board or committee member, employee, agent or person furnishing contracted services shall not exceed his or her authority and should work in full cooperation with public officials, board and committee members and City employees. Employees, agents and those furnishing contracted services should adhere to the rules of work and performance established as the standard for their positions by the appropriate authority.
No official, employee or agent shall grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizen beyond that which is available to every other citizen.
Financial or personal interests prohibited. No official, employee or agent, 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 his or her official duties in the public interest contrary to the provisions of this chapter or would be reasonably expected to impair his independence of judgment or action in the performance of his official duties.
Specific conflicts enumerated.
Incompatible employment. No official, employee or agent 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 such official's, employee's or agent's independence, judgment or action in the performance of his or her official duties, unless otherwise permitted by law and unless disclosure is made herein provided.
Disclosure of confidential information. No official, employee, board or committee member or agent shall, without proper legal authorization, disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the City, nor shall such official, employee or agent use such information to advance the financial or other private interest of their self or others.
Gifts and favors.
No elected or appointed official, employee or agent of the City shall accept anything of value, whether in the form of a gift, service, loan, thing or promise, from any person which may be reasonably expected to impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of his or her duties. No elected or appointed official or agent shall grant in the discharge of his or her duties any improper favor, service or thing of value. Any elected or appointed official or agent 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 whatever in business dealings with the City upon which the official or agent has any influence or input or over which the official or agent has any jurisdiction, discretion or control shall disclose the nature and value of such gifts to the Ethics Board by January 20 of the next year in which the gift or gifts are received. A gift or favor made or granted to a member of any official's or agent's immediate family shall be deemed made or granted to the official.
No elected or appointed official, employee or agent of the City 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. Campaign contributions are an exception and should be carefully documented and handled in accordance with the provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes.
An elected or appointed official, employee or agent 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 are 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, employee or agent under unusual circumstances may be referred to the Ethics Board within 10 days of receipt for recommended disposition.
Contracts with the City. Except to the extent allowed by Wis. Stats. § 946.13, no official, employee or agent of the City who, in his or her capacity as such official, in which such official, employee or agent has a private pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, or performs in regard to that contract some function requiring the exercise of discretion on the part of such official, employee or agent shall enter into any contract with the City.
Employment of relatives. No official, employee or agent, except as designated by the Board, shall participate in a discussion or proceeding which is held for the purpose of interviewing and/or hiring a job applicant; setting the salary, duties and/or conditions of employment of a job applicant or any employee; or firing of an employee, who is a relative of such official. No official shall head a department which employs a relative. No employee shall work in a department which is headed by a relative.
To the extent known, all elected and appointed officials of the City, members of its boards and committees or employees of the City who have a financial interest in any proposed action shall disclose on the records of the City promptly the nature and extent of such interest. To the extent known, all persons furnishing contracted services to the City, its boards or committees who have a financial interest in any proposed action shall, to the extent the proposed action relates to the contracted services provided or to be provided, disclose on the records of the City promptly the nature and extent of such interest.
Any other official, employee or agent who has a financial interest in any proposed action and who participates in discussion with or gives an official opinion or recommendation to the Board or any board or committee shall disclose on the records of the City promptly the nature and extent of such interest.
Campaign contributions shall be reported by all candidates for official and employee positions in the City in strict conformity with the provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes.
There is hereby created an Ethics Board for the City.
Structure and method of appointment. The Ethics Board shall be appointed according to Section 2.07(4)(a). Upon prior request of the Board, the City Attorney shall furnish the Board whatever legal assistance is necessary to carry out its functions.
Membership. The members of the Ethics Board shall be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Board. Terms of office shall be three years, except that when initial appointments are made, one shall be appointed for one year, two for two years and two for three years. If any member of the Ethics Board petitions the Board for an advisory opinion regarding his or her conduct, such member shall be mandatorily excluded from sitting in his or her own case.
Leadership and procedures. The Ethics Board shall elect its own chairperson and vice chairperson and shall develop written rules of procedure which shall be submitted to the Board for approval.
Amendment to Code of Ethics. The Ethics Board may make recommendations to the Board with respect to amendments to this chapter.
Any person may initiate a review before the Ethics Board of the conduct of any City officer or employee alleged to be in violation of the City ethics code by filing a verified complaint with the City Clerk, together with a processing fee in the amount of $200. Such verified complaint shall specify the activities of such officer or employee which are alleged to be in violation of the code of ethics. The Clerk shall provide a form, created by the Ethics Board, that may be used for such complaint.
Determination of probable cause. The City Attorney, or in the event of conflict special counsel appointed by the Ethics Board, shall act as counsel to the Ethics Board. Upon receipt, the Clerk shall forward such complaint to the Chair of the Ethics Board who will see to it that the officer or employee accused in the complaint is notified of fact that a complaint has been filed and served (in person or by certified mail) a copy of the complaint within 10 days of its filing. The Chair also shall convene the Ethics Board within 30 days of the date of filing of the complaint with the Clerk for the purposes of determining whether, when viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to the complaining party, there is probable cause to believe the employee or officer has acted in violation of the Ethics Code. Such review shall be in closed session. The Ethics Board shall give the complaining party and the officer or employee named in the complaint notice of the meeting and may request clarification of the complaint from either party.
If the Ethics Board determines that no probable cause exists, it shall dismiss the complaint and notify the accused officer or employee, the complainant and such other persons as the Board determines to have an interest.
If the Ethics Board finds probable cause to believe a violation exists, it shall then proceed to hold a hearing as provided by this code.
The Ethics Board may also, upon agreement of the complaining party and the officer or employee named in the complaint, proceed to issue an advisory opinion on the facts alleged in the complaint in lieu of a hearing.
The Ethics Board may direct the City Attorney or special counsel to further investigate the facts stated in the verified complaint and report back to the Board.
The complaining party may withdraw the complaint prior to a finding of probable cause. If probable cause is found by the Ethics Board, the complaint may not be withdrawn without the consent of the Ethics Board which may, at its complete discretion, require the matter to continue to hearing with or without the complaining parties consent and voluntary participation.
Notice of the finding of probable cause and notice of hearing and a copy of the complaint shall be sent to the accused officer or employee by certified mail at his last known post office address within five days of the determination of probable cause.
Such hearing shall be scheduled more than 20 days but less than 30 days from the postmarked date of the notice of hearing. The hearing may, however, be adjourned at the request of either party for good cause shown or the Ethics Board.
Prior to the hearing date, the Chair or the designated representative shall contact the parties for the purpose of a prehearing conference. At the prehearing conference, the parties shall disclose the witnesses they intend to call, request any subpoenas and discuss any other evidentiary or procedural issues related to the hearing.
The hearing shall be held before a quorum of the Ethics Board, presided over by the Chair or designated representative. At the hearing, each party may be represented by counsel at their own expense, the parties may present evidence, call and examine witnesses and cross-examine witnesses of the other party. Such witnesses shall be sworn by the person presiding over the hearing. The chairman of the Board is empowered to issue subpoenas to compel attendance of witnesses at such hearing. Statutory due process procedures and admissibility of evidence will be subject to the guidelines of Wis. Stats. § 227-45(1).
The hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the Wisconsin Rules of Criminal Evidence, and the Secretary of the Ethics Board or designee shall take notes of testimony and shall mark and preserve all exhibits. The burden shall be on the complaining party to show by clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence that an ethics code violation has occurred by the officer or employee accused.
The hearing shall be noticed to be and conducted in closed session unless the accused officer or employee requests, in writing, that it be open to the public.
Within 20 days of the completion of the hearing and the filing of briefs, if any, the Board shall make a written determination as to the existence of a violation of the code of ethics by the accused officer or employee. Such determination shall be mailed by certified mail to such officer or employee within the twenty-day period. Copies shall also be delivered to the City Board in the same manner as a report of a standing committee for such action as the City Council may deem proper.
An informal censure by the Council, which would only be made as part of a motion in a public meeting.
A formal censure by the Council, which would be made by motion in a public meeting and then published in the City newspaper.
Imposition of a dollar fine of up to $500 [Wis. Stats. § 62.11(3)(a) and (c)].
A violation of the penalties imposed by Council may constitute grounds for removal from office under Wis. Stats. § 17.12(1)(a), provided notice of such possible consequence was in the complaint to the Board and the provisions of Wis. Stats. § 17.16 have been followed.
Any other sanction available by law.
Imposition of decision. The imposition of any of these penalties or sanctions will require an affirmative vote of 3/4 of the Council, other than an informal or formal censure which shall only require a majority vote of the Council.
Authority to compromise. The Ethics Board may compromise or settle any potential action or violation of this chapter. Whenever the Board enters into a settlement agreement with an individual who is accused of a violation of this chapter, the Board shall reduce the agreement, to writing, together with a statement of the Board's findings and reasons for entering into the agreement, and shall retain the statement and agreement in its records for inspection.
Request for advisory opinion. Any individual, either personally or on behalf of an organization or governmental body, may, in writing, request the Ethics Board to issue an advisory opinion regarding the propriety of any matter to which the person is or may become a party. It is prima facie evidence of intent to comply with the ethics code when a person requests an advisory opinion abides by the advisory opinion, if the material facts are as stated in the opinion request. The Ethics Board may authorize the City Attorney to act in its stead in instances where delay is of substantial inconvenience or detriment to the requesting party.
Confidentiality. Except as provided in Subsection C, neither the City Attorney, a member of the Ethics Board, nor anyone else who becomes privy to the request or opinion may make public the identity of an individual requesting an advisory opinion or of individuals or organizations mentioned in the opinion.
Exception to confidentiality. The Ethics Board or City Attorney replying to a request for an advisory opinion may make the opinion public with the consent of the individual requesting the advisory opinion or the organization or governmental body on whose behalf it is requested and may make public a summary of an advisory opinion issued under this section after making sufficient alterations in the summary to prevent disclosing the identities of individuals involved in the opinion. A person who makes or purports to make public the substance of or any portion of an advisory opinion requested by or on behalf of the person waives the confidentiality of the request for an advisory opinion and of any records obtained or prepared by the Ethics Board or the City Attorney for the local governmental unit in connection with the request for an advisory opinion.
The Clerk shall provide copies of this chapter annually to elected and appointed officials, candidates for political office and the designated employees of the City who are required to file disclosure statements annually and shall keep at least one copy permanently on file for the use of the public. All employees shall receive a copy when they are hired.