[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town of Bedford 5-26-2004. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Conduct of public officials — See Charter, Art. VII.
This chapter is enacted pursuant to RSA 31:39-a and the Town of Bedford Charter. It is intended to guide public servants in balancing private interests and their obligations to the public, and to ensure consistency in the application of conflict-of-interest standards. It is further intended to recognize a distinction between conflicts that may arise when a public servant is acting in a legislative or quasi-judicial capacity. This chapter recognizes that the area of matters on which public servants must pass is of such a wide range that almost every public servant must inevitably have some interest that may conceivably be affected by some legislative proposal. It is not the intention of this chapter to prevent persons who are peculiarly suited for public office by reason of their commercial or professional experience from contributing their services to the community and to encourage individuals who do not have a conflict of interest, as provided herein, to participate in the decisionmaking process.
Editor's Note: See Charter, Art. VII, Conduct of Public Officials.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- Any board, committee, or commission, permanent or special, appointed or elected.
- CONFLICT OF INTEREST
- A situation, circumstance, or financial interest where a public officer votes on a matter in which he or she or a member of his or her family has a direct, personal and pecuniary interest which is immediate, definite, capable of demonstration, and not remote, uncertain, contingent and speculative, such that a person of ordinary capacity and intelligence would not be influenced by it.
- A person who is paid by the Town of Bedford for his or her services, but who is not an independent contractor.
- Any person who is related to the public servant in one of the following ways: spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or similar relation to the individual's spouse. This includes all persons who are members of the same household as the public servant in question, regardless of whether they are related by blood or marriage.
- LEGISLATIVE CAPACITY
- A circumstance where a public servant is engaged in the enactment of legislation, including ordinances and regulations, or similar matters.
- PECUNIARY INTEREST
- Any advantage in the form of money, property, commercial interest or anything else, the primary significance of which is economic gain; it does not include economic advantage applicable to the public generally, such as tax reduction or increased prosperity, generally.
- PUBLIC SERVANT
- All officials, officers and employees of the Town, whether elected, appointed, paid or unpaid.
- QUASI-JUDICIAL ACTION
- Any action where the board or committee members are acting like a judge or jury, where there is a duty to notify potential parties, hear the parties, and decide on a matter after weighing and considering such evidence and arguments as the parties choose to lay before the board.
- To disqualify or seek to disqualify from participation in a decision on grounds such as prejudice or personal involvement.
Public servants should avoid legal conflicts of interest.
Public servants shall not appear on behalf of a client or friend before any governmental body of which the public servant is a member.
A public servant shall not participate in any quasi-judicial matter in which he or she, or a member of his or her family, has a personal or pecuniary interest that may directly affect or influence the performance of his or her duties. In such instances, the public servant shall recuse him or herself from discussion and decisionmaking.
No public servant shall inappropriately influence a party in any business, transaction, or private employment, or have any direct financial or other private interest that is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties.
No public servant shall use or attempt to use his or her position as a public servant to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage for the public servant or any person, firm or organization associated with the public servant.
No public servant shall coerce or attempt to coerce, by intimidation, threats or otherwise, any public servant to engage in political activities.
No public servant shall receive any type of compensation, except from the Town, for performing any official duty. The receipt of gifts of a nominal value which a reasonable person could not construe as being capable of influencing a decision shall not create a conflict of interest. Examples of gifts of nominal value would be but are not limited to business grand openings, benefit golf tournaments, thank-you food baskets. Appointed officials who are given a gift shall inform the chairman of the board or commission they sit on. Town employees shall inform their department head and/or the Town Manager of, and receive approval for, any gift received. Any Town official who is acting in a legislative or quasi-judicial matter, who has accepted any type of gift in the past from a person or company presenting to the board or commission they sit on must disclose said gift to the rest of the board prior to any discussion on the item.
At the end of each calendar year, the Town Manager shall submit a list of nominal gifts (over $50 cumulatively from one vendor) received by all Town employees and boards and commissions. The Town Council Chairperson will add any Council gifts to that list, and the list will be placed on file in the Town Manager's office.
No public servant acting in a legislative capacity may participate in discussions, deliberations or decisions with respect to a matter in which he or she has a direct, personal and pecuniary interest different from that of a member of the general public. Any public servant who has any interest in the legislative matter shall publicly and on the record state all dealings, interest, and/or relationships (including employer/employee) that might compromise the public servant's objectivity or create a situation in which there was a potential of unfair economic advantage or the possibility of improper financial gain.
No public servant, acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, shall participate, by means of discussion, deliberation or vote in any matter in which he or she has a direct, personal and pecuniary interest which is immediate, definite, and capable of demonstration, not remote, uncertain, contingent and speculative, such that a person of ordinary capacity and intelligence would not be influenced by it.
Public servants have a duty to recuse themselves from participating in a specific action or discussion where a conflict of interest exists.
A public servant having a conflict of interest may not be seated with other members during any discussions, deliberations or votes on the matter in which the conflict exists, but may remain in the hearing room, and may speak so long as it is clearly stated for the record that that public servant is doing so only as a member of the general public.
Reasons for recusal do not include knowledge of the facts involved gained in the performance of the public official's official duties.
When uncertainty arises relative to the existence of a conflict where the public servant is acting in a legislative or quasi-judicial capacity, the public servant may request, following full disclosure, that the board vote on the question as to whether that member should recuse him or herself. Any such request and vote shall be made prior to or at the commencement of any required public hearing. Such a vote shall be advisory and nonbinding and may only be requested by board members.