[HISTORY: Adopted by the Village Board of the Village of Cottage Grove 1-15-2007 by Ord. No. 01-2007. 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 policies be made in 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 in this chapter a Code of Ethics for all Village of Cottage Grove officials and employees, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, including members of boards, committees and commissions of the Village, as well as any individuals who are candidates for elective office as soon as such individuals file nomination papers with the Village. The purpose of this Ethics Code is to establish guidelines for the ethical standards of conduct for all such officials and employees. The provisions and purpose of this Ethics Code and such rules and regulations as may be established are hereby declared to be in the best interests of the Village of Cottage Grove.
A further purpose of this Code is to have disclosure of private financial matters for elected officials, those seeking elected office, Planning and Zoning Commission members, Board of Appeals members, the Village Administrator, the Village Treasurer, the Village Clerk, the Chief of Police, the Public Works Director, the Parks and Recreation Director, the Building Inspector, the Erosion Control Inspector, the Municipal Court Judge, the Municipal Court Clerk and other paid appointed officials which may cause a conflict with their duties.
There are certain provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes which should, while not set forth herein, be considered an integral part of any Ethics Code. Accordingly, the provisions of the following sections of the Wisconsin Statutes, as from time to time amended, are made a part of this Ethics Code and shall apply to public officials and employees whenever applicable, to wit:
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ANYTHING OF VALUE
- Any gift, favor, loan, service or promise of future employment, but does not include reasonable fees and honorariums or the exchange of seasonal, anniversary or customary gifts among co-workers, relatives and friends.
- Any corporation, partnership, proprietorship, firm, enterprise, franchise, association, organization, self-employed individual or any other legal entity which engages in profit-making activities.
- FINANCIAL INTEREST
- Any interest which shall yield, directly or indirectly, a monetary or any other material benefit to the officer or employee or to any person employing or retaining the services of the officer or employee.
- PERSONAL INTEREST
- The following specific blood or marriage relationships:
- PUBLIC EMPLOYEE
- Any person excluded from the definition of a "public official" who is employed by the Village.
- PUBLIC OFFICIAL
- Those persons serving in statutory elected or appointed offices provided for in Chapter 62 of the Wisconsin Statutes and all members appointed to boards, committees and commissions established by the Village Board pursuant to this Code of Ordinances, whether paid or unpaid.
- SIGNIFICANT INTEREST
- Owning or controlling, directly or indirectly, at least 10% or $5,000 of the outstanding stock of any business.
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 carry out impartially the laws of the nation, state and municipality, 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 prime concern.
Officials and employees should adhere to the roles of work and performance established as the standard for their positions by the appropriate authority.
Officials and employees should not exceed their authority or 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.
Village staff are expected to follow their applicable professional code of conduct or ethics.
Use of public property. No official or employee shall use or permit the unauthorized use of Village-owned vehicles, equipment, materials or property for personal convenience or profit, except when such use or services are available to the public. The use of Village-owned vehicles, equipment, materials or property by Village officials or employees, in the conduct of official business, must comply with appropriate federal regulations, state law, Village ordinances or policies established by the Village.
Obligation to citizens. No official or employee shall grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to anyone beyond that which is available to every other person. No official or employee shall use or attempt to use his or her position with the Village to secure any advantage, preference or gain, over and above his or her rightful renumeration and benefits, for himself or herself or for a member of his or her immediate family.
Political contributions. No official, other than an elected official or candidate for elected office, shall personally solicit from any Village employee a contribution to a political campaign or committee for which the person subject to this chapter is a candidate or treasurer.
Financial and personal interest prohibited.
No official or employee of the Village, 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 provision of this chapter or which would tend to impair independence of judgment or action in the performance of official duties.
Any member of the Village Board who has a financial interest or personal interest in any proposed legislation before the Village Board shall disclose such situation in writing for inclusion with the records of the Village Board, and a copy must be submitted to the Ethics Commission. The written disclosure of a Village Board member shall declare the nature and extent of such interest. A Village Board member shall not participate in debate or vote on any motions related to such legislation.
Any nonelected official, other than a Village employee, who has a financial interest or personal interest in any proposed legislative action of the Village Board or any board, commission or committee upon which the official has any influence or input or of which the official is a member that is to make a recommendation or decision upon any item which is the subject of the proposed legislative action shall disclose on the records of the Village Board of the appropriate board, commission, or committee the nature and extent of such interest. Such official shall not participate in debate or discussion or vote for adoption or defeat of such legislation.
Any Village employee who has a financial interest or personal interest in any proposed legislative action of the Village Board or any board, commission or committee upon which the employee has any influence or input, or of which the employee is a member, that is to make a recommendation or decision upon any item which is the subject of the proposed legislative action shall disclose on the records of the Village Board or the appropriate board, commission or committee the nature and extent of such interest.
Disclosure of confidential information. No official or employee shall disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the Village, nor shall such information be used to advance the financial or other private interests of the official or employee or others. Confidential information, for purposes of this section, does not include information that would be considered available to the public under either federal law, state law and in particular the provisions of the Wisconsin Open Records Law.
Editor's Note: See s. 19.21 et seq., Wis. Stats.
Gifts and favors.
No official or employee, personally or through a member of his or her immediate family, may solicit or accept, either directly or indirectly, from any person or organization, money or anything of value if it could be expected to influence the employee or official in his or her actions or judgments or be considered a reward for any action or inaction on the part of the official or employee.
No official or employee, personally or through a member of his or her immediate family, shall accept any gift, whether in the form of money, service, loan, thing 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 duties or grant in the discharge of his or her duties any improper favor, service, or thing of value.
However, it is not a conflict of interest for any public official or employee to receive a gift or gratuity that is an unsolicited item of nominal intrinsic value such as a meal and that is not being given based on the position held by the employee or official with the Village. Nominal intrinsic value shall mean a gift or gratuity with value under $20.
Any official or employee who receives, directly or indirectly, any gift or gifts 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 Village shall disclose, in writing, the nature and value of such gifts to the Ethics Commission within 10 calendar days of the day the gift or gifts were received.
An official or employee 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 Village official or employee. 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 legal purpose of supporting the candidate's campaign.
Gifts received by an official or employee or his or her immediate family under unusual circumstances shall be referred to the Ethics Commission within 10 calendar days of receipt for recommended disposition. Any person subject to this chapter who becomes aware that he or she is or has been offered any gift, the acceptance of which would constitute a violation of this subsection, shall, within 10 calendar days, disclose in writing the details surrounding said offer to the Ethics Commission. Failure to comply with this reporting requirement shall constitute an offense under this chapter.
Representing private interests before village agencies or courts.
Nonelected Village officials and employees shall not appear on behalf of any private person (other than himself or herself or spouse or minor children) before any Village agency, board, committee, or commission if the official or employee in his or her duties has any jurisdiction, discretion or control over the matter which is the subject of such representation.
Elected Village officials may appear before any Village agency, board, committee, or commission on behalf of Village residents in the course of their duties as representative of the electorate in the performance of public or civic obligations. However, the disclosure requirements of Subsection A, relating Financial and personal interest prohibited, shall be applicable to such appearances.
Contracts with the Village. No Village official or employee who, in his or her official capacity, participates in the making of a contract in which he or she has a private pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, or performs in regards to the contract with some function requiring the exercise of discretion on his or her part shall enter into any contract with the Village unless, within the confines of s. 946.13, Wis. Stats:
This section governs the proposed hiring of individuals for regular full-time or part-time work as Village employees who are members of the immediate family of Village employees or elected officials. Excluded from the provisions of this section are seasonal or temporary employees. For this section, "immediate family" includes the following relatives by blood, marriage or adoption: a person's current spouse, former spouse, mother, father, child, brother or sister.
Hiring an immediate family member of any current Village employee or elected official is discouraged and will be considered only if that individual has the knowledge and skills, experience or other job-related qualifications that warrant consideration for the position. It is required that the Village hiring authority be notified of the personal interest relationship, prior to a hiring decision, by the current employee or elected official or the immediate family member seeking employment. In every case, the decision to hire an immediate family member including a former spouse, will be subject to review by the Ethics Commission before such person can commence employment.
Marriage between two individuals already employed by the Village or their relatives will not be considered a violation of this policy.
This section does not apply to nonelected officials who are asked to accept appointment as members of any Village board, commission or committee. However, nonelected officials will be expected to disqualify themselves from participation in matters under consideration which may affect the hiring, retention, classification or compensation of their immediate family members if currently employed or being considered for employment by the Village.
Any questions as to the interpretation of this Code of Ethics shall be referred to the Village Attorney. A request for an advisory opinion shall be made in writing to the Village Attorney and Chair of the Ethics Commission. The written request for an advisory opinion shall contain as much detail as possible in order to assist the Village Attorney with preparing an accurate response.
Written advisory requests and the opinions shall be kept confidential to the extent allowable by law, except when the disclosure is authorized by the requestor, in which case both the request and opinion may be made public.
As necessary, the Ethics Commission may meet in closed session with the Village Attorney to discuss any written request and the advisory opinion to be issued.
There is hereby created an Ethics Commission to consist of five members.
The membership of the Ethics Commission shall be limited to Village residents, and its members shall not concurrently serve in a Village elected position or as a full-time or part-time employee of the Village. The membership shall not serve on any other Village board, commission or committee during their tenure on the Ethics Commission. No member of the Ethics Commission may be a candidate for a Village elected position. Upon filing nomination papers for a Village elected position, a member will be considered to have resigned from the Commission.
The members of the Ethics Commission shall be appointed by the Village President and confirmed by majority vote of the Village Board. Terms of office of the members shall be three years, except that when the initial Commission appointments are made, one member shall be appointed for one year, two members shall be appointed for two years, and two members shall be appointed for three years.
The Ethics Commission shall elect its own Chairperson and Secretary and shall develop written rules of procedure, which shall be submitted to the Village Board for approval, as necessary.
Members of the Ethics Commission may be removed for cause from the Commission by the Village Board, before the end of their term. Removal for cause shall require a two-thirds vote of the Village Board.
The Village Attorney shall furnish the Commission with whatever legal assistance that is necessary in carrying out its functions. In the event that the Village Attorney would not be able to provide assistance to the Commission due to a professional conflict, the Commission may seek outside legal assistance after consultation with the Village Board.
The Ethics Commission may make recommendations with respect to amendments to the Village Code of Ethics Ordinance. The Commission shall also be responsible for coordinating continuing educational opportunities for Village employees and officials regarding federal, state and Village ethics rules.