[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Buchanan 12-4-1995 by L.L. No. 3-1995. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known and cited as the "Ethics in Government Law of the Village of Buchanan."
Public service should be considered the highest calling of a citizen, and the public interest should take precedence over all private interests. To achieve these ends, a Village government should require that public officers, employees and agency members be honest, fair and responsible to the people; that they exercise independent and impartial judgment; that they give their undivided allegiance to the public seal regardless of factionalism or transient political majorities; that public office and employment not be used for personal gain; that public officers and employees observe in their official acts the highest standards of integrity and faithfully discharge their duties regardless of personal consideration; and that the public have confidence in its government and the officers and employees thereof and that those officers and employees avoid even the appearance of impropriety. In recognition of these goals there is hereby established a Code of Ethics for officers, employees and agency members of the Village of Buchanan (hereinafter sometimes also referred to as the "Village") and Board of Ethics to render advisory opinions with respect thereto, to investigate alleged violations thereof and to facilitate compliance therewith.
The rules, regulations, standards, prohibited acts and procedures herein set forth are in addition to any provision of Article 18 of the General Municipal Law or any other general or special law or cannon relating to conflicts of interest, ethical conduct and interest of municipal officers and employees in contracts and are also in addition to common law rules and judicial decisions relating thereto and to the rules and regulations of the Police Department to the extent the same are more severe or restrictive in their application than this chapter. To the extent any other provision of law, rules, regulations or judicial decisions relating to conflicts of interest, ethical conduct and interest of municipal officers and employees in contracts shall be more severe or restrictive in their application, they shall prevail over the provisions of this chapter, but not otherwise.
Terms defined. As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- AGENCY MEMBER
- A member of any Village agency, board, committee or department created by law or appointed by the Village Trustees or the Mayor.
- APPOINTED OFFICER
- Every appointed official of the Village as defined in the Village Law, the General Municipal Law, the Public Officers Law or any other law referring to officers acting on behalf of the Village or any agency thereof, and shall also include those persons employed by the Village on a full-time or part-time basis as department heads or deputy department heads or whose job categories are classified as exempt for civil service classification purposes.
- Any money, thing of value or financial benefit conferred, granted, given or awarded for services rendered or to be rendered.
- ELECTED OFFICER
- Every elected official of the Village as defined in the Village Law, the General Municipal Law, the Public Officers Law or any other law referring to officers acting on behalf of the Village.
- Any person directly employed on a full- or part-time basis by the Village or any agency thereof and compensated therefor except that it shall not include part-time services rendered by independent contractors under special agreements of retention.
- A pecuniary or material benefit accruing to an officer or employee as the result of a business or professional transaction with the Village of Buchanan. For the purposes of this chapter, an officer or employee shall be deemed to have an interest in the affairs of his spouse, minor children and dependents; a firm, partnership or association of which such officer or employee is a member or employee; a corporation of which such officer or employee is an officer, director or employee; and a corporation any stock of which is owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by such officer or employee.
- The Village of Buchanan, a municipal corporation and the geographical environs thereof where the context warrants, and said corporation shall include any agency, board, bureau, commission, committee, department or office.
Word usage. The masculine gender as used herein shall include the feminine and neuter, where appropriate, and the singular shall include the plural and vice versa.
Conflicts of interest. No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan shall:
Knowingly have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any business or transaction or professional activity or incur any obligation of any nature which is in conflict with or might reasonably tend to conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest.
Act as attorney, director, broker, agent, 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 unless full disclosure is made as to such interest to the Village Trustees, in writing, and such officer or employee disqualifies himself from acting in his official capacity in matters affecting such person, firm or corporation.
Accept other employment or engage in any business transactions or have any interest, directly or indirectly, which conflicts with the proper discharge of public duties.
Representation of private interests. No officer of the Village shall, directly or indirectly, represent, be involved with or seek approval in connection with any private or public interests before any department, office or agency of the Village nor represent private interests, directly or indirectly, in any action or proceeding against the interests of the Village or any litigation to which the Village is a party. This shall not, however, preclude any officer or employee from appearing in the performance of public or civic obligations.
Disclosure of interest in pending litigation. Any member of the Village Board who has a direct or indirect financial or other private interest in any matter before the Village Board or any officer or employee who has a direct or indirect financial or other private interest in any matter before the Village Board and who participates in the discussion before, makes a recommendation to or gives an opinion to the Board on that matter shall publicly disclose on the official record of the Village Board the nature and extent of such interest.
Acceptance of gifts and favors. No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan, whether paid or unpaid, shall accept any gift having a value of $25 or more, whether in the form of service, loan, thing or promise or any other form, from any person, firm or corporation which, to his or her knowledge, is interested, directly or indirectly, in any manner whatsoever in business dealings with the Village of Buchanan; nor shall any such officer or employee accept any gift, favor or thing of value that may tend to influence him or her in the discharge of his or her duties or grant, in the discharge of his or her duties, any improper favor, service or thing of value. However, recognizing the prevalent and accepted practice of the giving of gifts during the holiday season, such gifts are specifically excepted from this section when it is clearly understood that the giving and receipt of such gifts is not intended to and shall not influence the recipient in the performance of his or her duties. Each member of the Village Board of Trustees, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Village Administrator and Building Inspector shall file a full and complete list on the prescribed form of any such holiday and/or other gifts received during any year in office and shall submit such list to the Chairperson of the Board of Ethics for the private information of the Board prior to January 31 of the following year. Gifts received at times other than during the holidays shall be inventoried by the recipient on the aforesaid Boards and by the aforesaid individuals, and a list of such gifts shall be submitted simultaneously with the submission of the list of holiday gifts. Each member of the aforesaid Boards and the aforesaid individuals must individually file a declaration of gifts each year while in office, whether or not he or she received any gifts. Such lists shall then be filed with the Village Clerk by the Chairperson of the Board of Ethics.
Interests in conflict with official duties. An officer or employee of the Village shall abstain from making personal investments in enterprises which he or she has reason to believe may be directly involved in decisions to be made by him or her or which will otherwise create conflict between his or her public duty and his or her private interest and shall refrain from passing upon or causing any official or employee of the Village from passing upon any questions in which he or she or any member of his or her immediate family has an interest which might reasonably be deemed to create such a conflict.
Disclosure of confidential information.
No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan, whether paid or unpaid, shall accept employment or engage in any business or professional activity which will require him or her to disclose confidential information which he or she has gained by reason of his or her official position or authority.
No officer or employee of the Village shall disclose confidential information acquired by him or her in the course of his or her official duties or use such information to further his or her personal interests or the private interests of others.
Incompatible employment. No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan shall accept other employment which will impair his or her independence of judgment in the exercise of his or her official duties or cause any other official or employee to take action which will call into question his or her independence of judgment in the exercise of his or her official duties.
Unwarranted privilege or influence.
No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan shall use or attempt to use his or her official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or herself or others or grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizens beyond that which is available to every other citizen.
No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan shall, by his or her conduct, give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can unduly influence him or her improperly or enjoy his or her favor in the performance of his or her official duties or that he or she is affected by kinship, rank, position or influence by any party or person.
Use of Village employees services or public property; political contributions.
No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan shall direct or cause any officer or employee of the Village to do or perform any service or work outside of public work or employment or accept any such service or work, nor shall any officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan offer to perform any such service or work for such officer or employee.
No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan shall request or permit the use of Village-owned vehicles, equipment, materials or property for personal convenience or profit, except when such services are available to the public generally or are provided as Village policy for use of such officer or employee in the conduct of official business.
No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan shall solicit or be solicited, directly or indirectly, to contribute, donate, give or grant any moneys or property to any Village political party, political campaign or political office. This restriction shall not be construed to prevent the voluntary contribution of such moneys or property by any Village employee to any political party, political campaign or political office.
Future employment. No officer or employee of the Village of Buchanan shall solicit, negotiate for or promise to accept employment by any person, firm or corporation with which he or she or his or her department, office or agency is engaged on behalf of the Village of Buchanan in the transaction of business which is or may be affected by his or her official action.
Multiple offices. No person may serve as Mayor, as a member of the Village Board or as a member of the Board of Ethics and, during the same time period, also serve as a member of either the Planning Board, the Board of Assessment Review or the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Additional standards for members of the Zoning and Planning Boards.
No member of the Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals shall participate directly or indirectly in any decision involving any matter before the Planning Board, Zoning Board or Village Board in which he may have an interest, directly or indirectly, or wherein he does or may have done business with the applicant or with any party having an interest in such matter during his tenure as a member of said Board and for a five-year period prior to his appointment to such Board.
Immediately upon learning of such application or matter before the Planning or Zoning Board, said member shall promptly disclose his relationship with such applicant in the decisionmaking process, including participation in any public hearing, informational meeting or any discussions at any executive session relating to such matter.
In addition to any penalty contained in any other provision of law, any person who shall willfully and knowingly violate any of the provisions of this code may be fined, suspended or removed from office or employment, as the case may be, in the manner provided by law.
The Village Clerk shall cause a copy of the Code of Ethics to be distributed to every officer, employee and agency member of the Village within 30 days after the enactment date of this chapter. Each officer, employee and agency member elected or appointed thereafter or nominated for office shall be furnished a copy before entering upon the duties of his office or employment or within 10 days after nomination. Each officer, employee and agency member shall acknowledge, in writing, by a statement filed of public record in the office of the Village Clerk that he has received a copy of this code.
A Board of Ethics is hereby established to be composed of five members appointed by the Village Board, all of whom shall reside in the Village of Buchanan. The Village Attorney shall be a member ex officio of such Board of Ethics without the power to vote. In accordance with § 808 of the General Municipal Law, one member of such Board shall be an elected or appointed officer or employee of the Village. The members of such Board shall receive no salary or compensation for their services as members of such Board and shall serve at the pleasure of the Village Board for terms of five years each with the initial appointments being one member for an initial term of one year, one member for an initial term of two years, one member for an initial term of three years, one member for an initial term of four years and one member for an initial term of five years.
Such Board of Ethics shall not be constituted of a majority of any political party in the Village. The Board of Ethics each year shall elect from its membership the Chairperson and Secretary and, upon its formation, shall promulgate its own rules and regulations as to its forms and procedures and shall maintain proper records of its opinions and proceedings for which reasonable and necessary expenses it shall be reimbursed as a Village charge, and an adequate appropriation for its operation shall be budgeted by the Village Board in accordance with and subject to any limitations and requirements of state law. Any vacancy shall be filled in the same manner in which the original appointment was made.
The Board of Ethics shall render advisory opinions at the request of the Village Board and to actual and prospective Village officers, employees and agency members with respect to Article 18 of the General Municipal Law and this Code of Ethics. The identity of the requesting officer, employee or agency member, actual or potential, and of the requesting party shall be treated as confidential, but the opinion of the Board shall be a matter of public record and shall be filed in the office of the Village Clerk. The Board of Ethics may make recommendations to the Village Board with respect to the amendment of this Code of Ethics. No amendment initiated by the Village Board shall be adopted by the Village Board without affording the Board of Ethics at least 30 days to consider the Village Board's amendment.
The Board of Ethics, upon adopting rules and regulations relative to the conduct of its business, shall render advisory opinions subject to these limitations:
Requests for opinions shall be in writing.
Requests for inquiries must originate with a municipal officer or employee.
Requests or inquiries must relate to the subjects encompassed within the Conflict of Interest Law (General Municipal Law Article 18) or a Code of Ethics.
The form and content of requests for opinions and opinions shall, in addition, conform with the following:
A copy of any charges brought against an official or employee shall forthwith be sent to such person by the Secretary of the Board of Ethics, together with a notice that such official or employee will be given 45 days in which to respond to the charges made against him or her, and the Board of Ethics shall have the authority to grant an extension of time to respond not to exceed an additional 30 days unless for good cause shown.
Form and content. The form and content of opinions shall include:
A full statement of the facts.
A full statement of pertinent law and/or provision of the Code of Ethics.
Signatures of all members who are in agreement with such opinion or report.
A minority report or opinion signed by those members not in agreement with the majority report or opinion. A copy of the opinion of the Board of Ethics shall be sent to the official or employee making the inquiry and to the official or employee who is the subject of the charge or inquiry.
Rules and regulations adopted to govern the conduct of meetings of the Board shall include the following:
The number of Board members constituting a quorum, which shall not be less than a majority (i.e., three members) of the Board of Ethics as established herein.
The number of Board members necessarily in affirmative agreement to render an opinion, which shall not be less than a majority (i.e., three members) of the Board as established herein.
The form and content of records of proceedings and other Board records.
Such other rules and regulations as may be necessary and proper to accomplish the purposes of this chapter.
The Board of Ethics shall have the power and authority at the request of the Village Board to render reports and recommendations to the Village Board for appropriate action respecting unethical practices in violation of this chapter or any statute, rule or regulation relating to conflicts of interest, ethical conduct and interest of municipal officers and employees in contracts. The Village Board, in its discretion and consistent with statutory provisions relating to the discipline or removal of officers, employees and agency members, may publicly disclose the reports and recommendations of the Board of Ethics filed with it.
Cooperation with Board. All agencies of the Village and all officers, employees and agency members shall furnish to the Board of Ethics such data, information and statements as may, in the opinion of the Board, be necessary for the proper exercise of its functions, powers and duties.
This chapter shall take effect immediately upon adoption by the Village Board of Trustees.