[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Suffern 4-11-2016 by L.L. No. 6-2016. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCESAttachment 1 - Appendix I Attachment 2 - Appendix II, Annual Statement of Financial Disclosure Form
Chief of Police — See Ch. 10.
Defense and indemnification — See Ch. 14.
Salaries and compensation — See Ch. 53.
Editor's Note: This local law also repealed former Ch. 22, Ethics, Code of, adopted 2-8-1971 as Ch. 16A of the 1971 Code, as amended.
This chapter shall be known and cited as the "Ethics in Government Law of the Village of Suffern" (repealing and replacing the former Chapter 22 of the Code of Ethics of the Village of Suffern originally adopted February 8, 1971).
In a democracy, government should be open, accessible, equitable and efficient. Democratic government requires that elected officials be independent, impartial and responsible to the people. Government decisions and policy must be made through the appropriate channels of government structure. Public office must not be used or be perceived for personal gain. The public must have confidence in the integrity of its government. In order to strengthen the democratic operation of the Village of Suffern and to enhance public trust in that government, this code requires disclosure of financial interests that may influence or be perceived to influence the actions of elected officials, covered employees or Village employees. Elected officials, covered employees or Village employees hold office for the benefit of the public, and their conduct must be of the highest standard. It is of the utmost importance that all individuals covered by that law must be seen to be acting solely in the public interest. Therefore, it is the intent of this legislation to:
Establish high standards of ethical conduct for elected officials, covered employees and Village employees.
Afford elected officials, covered employees and Village employees clear guidance to such standards.
Promote public confidence in the integrity of Village government.
Require disclosure of financial interests that may influence or be perceived to influence the actions of elected officials, candidates for elected office and covered employees.
Facilitate consideration of potential problems before they arise, minimize unwarranted suspicion and enhance the accountability of government to the people.
Nothing contained in this chapter shall be deemed to supersede the provisions of §§ 800, 801, 802, 803 and 809 of the General Municipal Law, but rather this chapter is deemed supplementary thereto. However, should a higher standard of disclosure of conflict of interest be required by this chapter, then the provisions of this chapter shall govern.
All other legal requirements pertaining to the conduct of elected officials, covered employees and Village employees shall not be deemed to have been superseded by this chapter, including but not limited to rules of any state or county agency relating to licensing and discipline and any other applicable disciplinary codes.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- Any agency, department, division, board, commission or bureau of the Village of Suffern.
- The Board of Ethics of the Village of Suffern.
- BUSINESS/PROFESSIONAL DEALING AND/OR BUSINESS TRANSACTION
- Having or providing any contract, service or work with the Village; buying, selling, renting, leasing or otherwise acquiring from or dispensing to the Village any goods, services or property; or obtaining any approval, grant, loan, license, permit or other privilege from the Village, excepting that by operation of law.
- CANDIDATE FOR ELECTED OFFICE
- A candidate for Village-wide office who receives the designation of a party and who files a designating petition for nomination at a primary election, or who receives the nomination of a party other than at a primary election (whether or not for an uncontested office), or who seeks independent nomination and who has not been designated by a party to receive a nomination but files a designating petition, or whose name appears on a primary or election ballot pursuant to § 6-148 of the Election Law. The terms "party," "designation," "primary election," "nomination" and "independent nomination," as used herein, shall have the same meaning as those contained in § 1-104 of the Election Law.
- Any money, thing of value or financial benefit conferred in return for services rendered or to be rendered.
- COVERED EMPLOYEES
- The heads, other than elected officials, of any agency, department, division, council, board, commission or bureau of the Village and their deputies and assistants and the officers, employees and consultants on annual retainers of such agencies, departments, divisions, boards, bureaus, commissions or councils who hold policy-making positions as determined by the Village Board and set forth in a written instrument annexed hereto as Appendix I, which shall be filed with the Board of Ethics.
- ELECTED OFFICIAL
- An elected official of the Village of Suffern.
- A direct or indirect pecuniary or material benefit accruing to an elected official, covered employee or Village employee, his or her spouse, child or dependent, whether as a result of a contract with the Village or otherwise.
- Any agency activity respecting the grant, denial, renewal, revocation, enforcement, suspension, annulment, withdrawal, recall, cancellation or amendment of a license, permit or other form of permission conferring the right or privilege to engage in a profession, trade or occupation or any business or activity regulated by a regulatory agency which, in the absence of such license, permit or other form of permission, would be prohibited.
- MINISTERIAL MATTER
- An administrative act carried out in a prescribed manner not allowing for substantial personal discretion.
- Such individual's spouse, child, stepchild, stepparent, or any person who is a direct descendant of the grandparents of the reporting individual or of the reporting individual's spouse.
- REPRESENTATIVE CAPACITY
- The presentation of the interests of a client or other person pursuant to an agreement, express or implied, for compensation for services.
- The husband or wife of the reporting individual unless living separate and apart from the reporting individual with the intention of terminating the marriage or providing for permanent separation or unless separated pursuant to a judicial order, decree or judgment or a legally binding separation agreement.
- A child of one's husband or wife, but not born of the marriage.
- UNEMANCIPATED CHILD
- Any son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter who is under the age of 22, unmarried and living in the household of the reporting individual.
- VILLAGE EMPLOYEE
- Any employee other than an elected official or covered employee of the Village of Suffern, whether paid or unpaid.
Editor's Note: Appendix I is included as an attachment to this chapter.
No elected official, covered employee or Village employee shall directly or indirectly solicit or receive compensation or agree to receive compensation for services rendered concerning matters before any Village agency, nor shall any such person accept other employment or engage in any business transactions or make any investments directly or indirectly which create a conflict with his or her official duties.
No elected official, covered employee or Village employee shall have any business or professional dealings or be interested, directly or indirectly, in any manner whatsoever, except by operation of law, in any business or professional dealings with the Village of Suffern or any agency thereof.
No elected official, covered employee or Village employee shall be employed, with or without compensation, as an attorney, agent, broker, director, representative or employee for any person, firm or corporation interested, directly or indirectly, in any manner whatsoever, in business or professional dealings with the Village or any agency thereof unless full disclosure is made as to such employment to the Village Board, in writing, and such elected official, covered employee or Village employee disqualifies himself or herself from acting in his or her official capacity in matters affecting such person, firm or corporation.
No elected official, covered employee or Village employee shall, directly or indirectly, solicit any gift or gifts, or accept or receive any gift or gifts with an aggregate value of $75 or more within any twelve-month period, whether in the form of a service, loan, thing, travel, entertainment, hospitality or promise, or any other form of gratuity, from any person other than a relative or from any firm, any organization or any corporation which, to his or her knowledge, is interested, directly or indirectly, in any manner whatsoever, in business or any case, proceeding or application or professional dealings with the Village or any agency thereof. Refreshments or meals that are provided as part of an informational presentation in a group setting or as part of a reception shall not be considered gifts, nor shall the receipt or acceptance of gifts or other things of value less than $150 received from other elected officials, covered employees or Village employees for purposes of being social, showing appreciation or celebrating a holiday or other event be considered gifts.
No former elected official, former covered employee or former Village employee shall directly or indirectly appear, render services or have any business transaction before any Village agency concerning a matter in which he or she was personally involved for two years after termination of his or her service of employment.
No elected official, covered employee or Village employee who is a member of a firm which is appearing before a Village agency may communicate about the matter with an elected official, covered employee or Village employee concerned with the matter. However, printed material such as the letterhead or stationery imprinted with the name of the elected official, covered employee or Village employee is deemed not to be a communication so long as the printed material is not issued or signed by the elected official, covered employee or Village employee.
No elected official, covered employee or Village employee shall disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the Village except when permitted or required by law, nor shall be or she use such information to advance the financial or other private interests of any person, firm or corporation.
Any applicant or any representative of any applicant before any agency must disclose, in writing and on the record, any previous business dealings and/or business transactions that said applicant or representative has had with any member of said agency within the previous two years.
Each elected official, covered employee or Village employee shall be furnished a copy of the Code of Ethics, Chapter 22 of the Code of the Village of Suffern, by the Personnel Administrator before entering the duties of his or her office of employment.
Each elected official, covered employee or Village employee shall be barred from videotaping and/or audiotaping any individual or proceeding, involving Village business, without the consent of each of the individuals who are being video- and/or audiotaped. Notwithstanding the foregoing, any individual who is acting as agent or under the direction or on behalf of law enforcement, whether local, state or federal, is permitted to video- and/or audiotape if such conduct is at the law enforcement agency's direction.
Each elected official, covered employee and candidate for elected office must file an annual financial disclosure statement containing the information and in the form set forth as Appendix II hereto. Such statement shall be filed with the Board of Ethics on or before the 15th day of May with respect to the preceding calendar year, with the following exceptions:
A person who is subject to the reporting requirements of this section and who timely filed with the Internal Revenue Service an application for automatic extension of time in which to file his or her individual income tax return for the immediately preceding calendar or fiscal year shall be required to file such financial disclosure statement on or before May 15, but may, without being subjected to any civil penalty on account of a deficient statement, indicate with respect to any item of the disclosure statement that information with respect thereto is lacking but will be supplied in a supplementary statement of financial disclosure, which shall be filed on or before the seventh day after the expiration of the period of such automatic extension of time within which to file such individual income tax return, provided that failure to file or to timely file such supplementary statement of financial disclosure or the filing of any incomplete or deficient supplementary statement of financial disclosure shall be subject to the notice and penalty provisions of this section respecting annual statements of financial disclosure as if such supplementary statement were an annual statement.
A person who is required to file an annual financial disclosure statement with the Board and who is granted an additional period of time within which to file such statement due to justifiable cause or undue hardship, in accordance with required rules and regulations on the subject adopted by the Board, shall file such statement within the additional period of time granted.
Candidates for elected office shall file such annual financial disclosure statement within seven days after the last day allowed by law for the filing of primary election designating petitions; or the last day allowed by law for the filing of independent nominating petitions; or the date of the meeting of the party committee at which they are nominated; or within seven days of receiving the designation or nomination or independent nomination or otherwise becoming a candidate by virtue of § 6-148 of the Election Law, as shall be applicable to the form of their candidacy.
Any person required to file an annual financial disclosure statement who commences employment after April 15 of any year shall file such statement within 30 days after commencing employment.
A person who is required to file an annual financial disclosure statement in more than one capacity need file only one such statement but must observe the earliest filing date with respect to each of such capacities.
Editor's Note: Appendix II is included as an attachment to this chapter.
There shall be a Board of Ethics consisting of five members to be appointed by the Village Board, all of whom shall reside in the Village of Suffern and who shall serve without compensation, which shall be set by resolution of the Village Board. The members of the present Board existing on the effective date of this chapter shall continue in office until the expiration of their respective terms unless they or any one of them is in violation of any of the provisions of Subsection B hereof, in which case said member or members are deemed to have vacated their office as of the effective date of this chapter. The members of the Board shall elect a Chairman and a Secretary.
No member of the Board shall:
Hold any public office, elected or appointed, or be a public officer or employee. This provision is adopted so as to establish a Board of Ethics that is an unquestionably independent body, pursuant to and by the authority granted to the Village by the New York Constitution, Article IX, § 2(c) and § 10(1)(i) and (ii)(a)(1) of the Municipal Home Rule Law to adopt a Code provision not inconsistent with and stricter than § 808(3) of the General Municipal Law.
Hold office in any political party or be employed as a lobbyist.
Be a party to any civil proceeding against the Village other than that arising out of a personal injury or property damage claim or from any lawful benefit, or have any business dealings with the Village, other than applications for building permits, certificates of occupancy, marriage licenses, or other similar ministerial matters.
Any vacancy occurring on the Board shall be filled within 60 days of its occurrence by the Village Board in the same manner as the member whose vacancy is being filled was appointed. A person appointed to fill a vacancy shall be appointed for the unexpired term of the member he or she succeeds.
Three members of the Board shall constitute a quorum, and the Board shall have power to act by a majority vote of the total number of members of the Board without vacancy.
The term of office for members of the Board shall be five years. Members of the Board may be removed by the Village Board for cause amounting to substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, inability to discharge the powers or duties of the office or violation of this chapter, after a hearing on written notice and opportunity to respond.
The members of the Board shall receive no compensation.
The Board shall be the repository for all financial disclosure statements required pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. The information set forth in the annual statement of financial disclosure filed pursuant to this chapter shall be available for public inspection except the categories of value or amount, which shall remain confidential. All other documents filed with the Board, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, shall be kept confidential and shall not be used for any purpose outside of the jurisdiction of the Board except pursuant to a lawfully issued subpoena by or on behalf of a law enforcement agency. The Board shall notify the Temporary State Commission on Local Government Ethics, if such Commission is in existence, and, if not, shall file a statement with the Village Clerk that it is the authorized repository for completed annual statements of financial disclosure and that, on account thereof, such completed statements will be filed with it and not with the Commission.
The Board shall inspect all financial disclosure statements filed with the Board to ascertain whether any person subject to the reporting requirements of this chapter has failed to file such a statement, has filed a deficient statement or has filed a statement which reveals a possible violation of § 811 or 812 of the General Municipal Law or of this chapter, as the case may be.
The Board shall obtain from the Rockland County Board of Elections lists of all candidates for elected office. The Board shall determine from such lists those candidates who have not, after the required date for filing such statement, filed the statement required by this chapter.
The Board shall meet at least annually in the month of June for purposes of organization and to review the status of all confidential memoranda required to be on file with it and to transact any other business as may properly come before it and shall report publicly to the Village Board not later than the 15th day of September annually on its current state of organization and on the currency of all reports required to be on file and for which notices of delinquency have been issued and on any other matters which may appear to be a just and proper exercise of its responsibility.
The Board shall adopt, amend and rescind rules and regulations to govern procedures of the Board, which shall include but not be limited to the procedure whereby a person who is required to file an annual financial disclosure statement with the Board may request an additional period of time within which to file such statement, due to justifiable cause or undue hardship. Such rules or regulations shall provide for a date beyond which, in all cases of justifiable cause or undue hardship, no further extension of time will be granted.
The Board shall receive only sworn complaints alleging a violation of any of the provisions of this chapter. The source of the complaint shall be verified prior to the commencement of any investigation thereof.
The Board shall permit any person required to file a statement of financial disclosure to request an exemption from any requirement to report one or more items of information which pertain to such person's spouse or unemancipated children, which item or items may be exempted by the Board upon a finding by a majority of the total number of members of the Board without vacancy that the reporting individual's spouse, on his or her own behalf or on behalf of an unemancipated child, objects to providing the information necessary to make such disclosure, and that the information which would otherwise be required to be reported will have no material bearing on the discharge of the reporting person's official duties.
Upon written request from any person who is subject to the jurisdiction of the Board, the Board shall render advisory opinions on the requirements of the provisions of this chapter. An opinion rendered by the Board, until and unless amended or revoked, shall be binding on the Board in any subsequent proceeding concerning the person who requested the opinion and who acted in good faith unless material facts were omitted or misstated by the person in the request for an opinion. Such opinion may also be relied upon by such person and may be introduced and shall be a defense in any criminal or civil action. Such request and any such opinions shall be confidential.
If a person required to file a financial disclosure statement with the Board has failed to file a disclosure statement or has filed a deficient statement, the Board shall notify the reporting person, in writing, state the failure to file or detail the deficiency, provide the person with a fifteen-day period to cure the deficiency and advise the person of the penalties for failure to comply with the reporting requirements. Such notice shall be confidential. If the person fails to make such filing or fails to cure the deficiency within the specified time period, the Board shall send a notice of delinquency to the reporting person and, in the case of a covered employee, to the appointing authority for such person. Such notice shall be available for public inspection.
If a reporting person has filed a statement which reveals a possible violation of the Code of Ethics of this chapter or the Board receives a sworn complaint alleging such a violation or if the Board determines on its own initiative to investigate a possible or alleged violation, the Board shall notify the reporting person, in writing, describe the possible or alleged violation of such Code of Ethics and provide the person with a fifteen-day period in which to submit a written response setting forth information relating to the activities cited as a possible or alleged violation of law. If the Board thereafter makes a determination that further inquiry is justified, it shall give the reporting person an opportunity to be heard. The Board shall also inform the reporting person of its rules regarding the conduct of adjudicatory proceedings and the due process procedural mechanisms available to such individual. If the Board determines at any stage of the proceeding that there is no violation or that any potential conflict of interest violation has been rectified, it shall so advise the reporting person and the complainant, if any. All the foregoing proceedings shall be confidential. If the Board determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, it shall send notice of reasonable cause to the reporting person, to the complainant, if any, and, in the case of a covered employee, to the appointing authority for such person. Such notice shall be available for public inspection.
The Board shall adopt rules governing the conduct of adjudicatory proceedings relating to the assessment of civil penalties herein authorized. Such rules shall provide for due process procedural mechanisms substantially similar to those set forth in Article 3 of the State Administrative Procedure Act, but such mechanisms need not be identical in terms or scope. Assessment of a civil penalty shall be final unless modified, suspended or vacated within 30 days of imposition and, upon becoming final, shall be subject to review at the instance of the affected reporting individual in a proceeding commenced against the appropriate body pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.
The Board shall conduct any investigation necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. Pursuant to this power and duty, the Board may administer oaths or affirmations, subpoena witnesses, compel their attendance and require the production of any books or records which it may deem relevant or material.
All decisions of the Board not otherwise required to be kept confidential shall be printed and made public within 30 days after their decision and shall be filed with the Village Clerk and shall be available for public inspection during regular business hours.
Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of § 22-5 of this chapter shall be subject to a civil fine in an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each violation. Assessment of a civil penalty hereunder shall be made by the Board.
In addition, any person who shall violate any of the provisions of § 22-5 of this chapter shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor as that term is defined in the New York State Penal Law.
An elected official, covered employee or candidate for elected office who knowingly and willfully fails to file an annual statement of financial disclosure or who knowingly and willfully, with intent to deceive, makes a false statement or gives information which such individual knows to be false on such statement of financial disclosure filed pursuant to § 22-6 of this chapter shall be assessed a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $10,000. The Board may, in lieu of a civil penalty, refer a violation to the appropriate prosecutor and, upon such conviction, but only after such referral, such violation shall be punishable as a Class A misdemeanor. A civil penalty for false filing may not be imposed hereunder in the event that a category of value or amount reported hereunder is incorrect, unless such reported information is falsely understated. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no other penalty, civil or criminal, may be imposed for a failure to file or for a false filing of such statement, except that the Board may impose disciplinary action as otherwise provided by law.
In the event that a civil penalty assessed by the Board shall become final and shall not be reviewed pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules or, if so reviewed such civil penalty shall be sustained or modified and, as so modified, sustained in part or, if after referral to the appropriate prosecutor by the Board the reporting person shall be convicted, the Board is hereby directed to review the facts and, if appropriate, to file appropriate disciplinary charges and to impose disciplinary action as provided by law.
The Village Clerk shall maintain as a record subject to public inspection:
A copy of this chapter or any amendments hereto adopted, within 30 days after the adoption thereof.
A statement that the Village of Suffern has established a Board of Ethics in accordance with this chapter and the composition of such Board, within 30 days after the establishment of such Board.
A copy of the form of annual statement of financial disclosure and a statement of the date such annual statement form was promulgated by this chapter.
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this chapter, the Village of Suffern hereby elects to remove itself from the ambit of all of the provisions of § 812, other than Subdivision 3 of such section, of the General Municipal Law, in accordance with the provisions of Subdivision 3 of such section.
Any person who induces any elected official, covered employee or Village employee to take any action or refrain from taking any action, which is in violation of this chapter, shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor as that term is defined in the New York State Penal Law and shall be barred from doing business with the Village for a period of five years from the date of conviction.
Nothing herein shall be deemed to bar the timely filing by a present or former elected official, covered employee or Village employee of any claim, demand, or suit against the Village, made individually or in a representative capacity, arising out of any personal injury or property damage or from any lawful benefit, or from receiving a municipal service or benefit that is generally available to the public.
Definitions. For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply to acts under this section:
- Any claim, account or demand against or agreement with a municipality, express or implied, and shall include the designation of a depository of public funds and the designation of a newspaper, including, but not limited to, an official newspaper, for the publication of any notice, resolution, ordinance, or other proceeding where such publication is required or authorized by law. "Contract" shall include, for the purposes of this section, an approval or denial of a rezoning, subdivision, variance or other discretionary application and shall also include a determination made pursuant to § 8-0101 et seq. of the Environmental Conservation Law. "Contract" shall not include, for purposes of this section, a proposed collective bargaining agreement with the Village that may collaterally affect one or more of the persons set forth in Subsection (2) of the definition of "interest" herein when such person is classified as a nonexempt position person by said collective bargaining agreement.
- A direct or indirect pecuniary or material benefit accruing to an elected official or covered employee as a result of a contract with the Village which such elected official or covered employee serves. For the purposes of this section an elected official or covered employee shall be deemed to have an interest in the contract of:
- (1) A spouse, child, stepchild or dependent;
- (2) Business partners, or a business, association, partnership, corporation, or other entity of which the elected official or covered employee is an owner, partner, officer, director, or shareholder, as identified in the financial disclosure statement of said elected official or covered employee executed by him or her pursuant to § 22-6 herein; and
- (3) A person, business, association, partnership, corporation, or other entity who is represented in a professional capacity (such as attorney-client or real estate broker/customer) by the elected official or covered employee, as identified in the financial disclosure statement of said elected official or covered employee executed by him or her pursuant to § 22-6 herein.
Prohibited actions. Whenever an elected official or covered employee is called upon to vote on, advise on, or otherwise take discretionary action before the Village in which the elected official or covered employee has an interest, the elected official or covered employee shall immediately declare the nature of the interest and shall refrain from taking any action or inaction that would affect the outcome of the matter. Such declaration shall be made a part of the public record concerning the matter.