[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Pacific 8-13-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-7. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter is entitled the "Town of Pacific Ethics Code Ordinance." This chapter repeals and replaces any previously adopted Town ordinance covering the subject matter of this chapter.
The proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made in proper channels of the governmental 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 this Ethics Code for all Town of Pacific officials and employees, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, including members of boards, committees and commissions of the Town, as well as any individuals who are candidates for elective office as soon as such individuals file nomination papers with the Town.
The purpose of this Ethics Code is to establish guidelines for the ethical standards of conduct for all such officials and employees by setting forth those acts or actions that are incompatible with the best interests of the Town of Pacific and by directing disclosure by such officials and employees of private financial or other interests in matters affecting the Town. The Town Board believes that an Ethics Code for the guidance of elected and appointed officials and employees will help them avoid conflicts between their personal interests and their public responsibilities, will improve standards of public service and will promote and strengthen the faith and confidence of the citizens of this Town in their elected and appointed officials and employees. The Town Board hereby reaffirms that each elected and appointed Town official and employee holds his or her position as a public trust, and any intentional effort to realize substantial personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust. 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 Town of Pacific. This chapter is enacted pursuant to the authority set forth in § 19.59(2), Wis. Stats.
The following definitions shall be applicable in this chapter:
- ANYTHING OF VALUE
- Any money or property, favor, service, payment, advance, forbearance, loan or promise of future payment, but does not include compensation and expenses paid by the Town, fees and expenses which are permitted and reported under § 19.56, Wis. Stats., political contributions which are recorded under Ch. 11, Wis. Stats. Further, it does not include hospitality extended for a purpose unrelated to Town business by a person other than an organization or the exchange of customary gifts among relatives or friends.
- When used with reference to an organization, includes any organization in which an individual or a member of his immediate family is a director, officer or trustee, or owns or controls, directly or indirectly, severally or in the aggregate, at least 10% of the outstanding equity, or of which an individual or member of his or her immediate family is an authorized representative or agent.
- 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 other material benefit to the officer or employee or to any person employing or retaining the services of the officer or employee.
- The payment or receipt of anything of value without valuable consideration.
- IMMEDIATE FAMILY
- A local public official's spouse, son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, stepmother, stepfather, stepson, stepdaughter, stepsister, stepbrother, son-in-law or daughter-in-law.
- PUBLIC EMPLOYEE
- Any person excluded from the definition of a public official who is employed by the Town.
- PUBLIC OFFICIAL
- Those persons serving in statutory elected or appointed offices provided for in Chapter 60 of the Wisconsin Statutes and all members appointed to boards, committees and commissions established or appointed by the Chairperson and/or Town Board, whether paid or unpaid.
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:
Public officials and employees are agents of public purpose and hold office to serve the public interest. 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 Town, 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. In applying the standards of conduct set forth in this chapter, the Town Board also recognizes that:
In a representative democracy its leaders are drawn from the very society that they serve; therefore, they cannot and should not be expected to be without any personal or economic interest in the decisions and policies of government;
Citizens who serve as local public officials retain their rights as citizens to interests of a personal and economic nature;
The standards of ethical conduct for local public officials need to distinguish between minor and inconsequential conflicts that are avoidable in a free society and those conflictions which are substantial and material; and
Local public officials may need to engage in employment, professional or business activities other than official public duties in order to support themselves or their families and to maintain a continuity of professional business activity or may need to maintain investments; however, such activities or investments must not conflict with the specific provisions of this Ethics Code.
Financial and personal interest.
No official or employee of the Town, 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 provisions of this chapter, or which would tend to impair independence of judgment or action in the performance of official duties.
Any Town official who has a financial interest or personal interest in any proposed matter pending before the Town Board or a Town committee shall disclose on the record of the Town Board and/or Town committee the nature and extent of such interest.
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no Town elected or appointed official may:
Take an official action affecting a matter in which the official, a member of his immediate family or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest.
Use his office or position in a way that produces or assists in the production of financial gain or substantial benefit, direct or indirect, for the official, one or more family members of the official's immediate family, whether separately or together, or an organization with which the official is associated.
Use or attempt to use his public position to influence or gain unlawful advantage or privileges for himself or others.
Any Town employee who has a financial interest or personal interest in any matter pending before the Town Board or any Town commission or committee upon which the employee has any influence or input shall promptly disclose on the record of the Town Board and/or the appropriate commission or committee the nature and extent of such interest.
Disclosure of confidential information. No official or employee shall, without proper legal authorization, disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the Town, nor shall such information be used to advance the financial or other private interests of the official or employee or others.
Gifts and favors.
No official or employee, personally or through a member of his 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's official 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 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 independence of judgment or action in the performance of his duties, or grant in the discharge of his/her duties any improper favor, service or thing of value.
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 Town official or employee. 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 official or employee or his/her immediate family under unusual circumstances shall be referred to the Town Board within 10 days of receipt for recommended disposition. Any person subject to this chapter who becomes aware that he/she is or has been offered any gift, the acceptance of which would constitute a violation of this subsection, shall, within 10 days, disclose the details surrounding said offer to the Town Board. Failure to comply with this reporting requirement shall constitute an offense under this chapter.
Representing private interests before Town agencies.
Nonelected Town officials and employees shall not appear on behalf of any private person (other than himself or herself, his or her spouse or minor children) before any Town agency, board, commission or the Town Board if the official or employee or any board, commission or committee of which the official or employee is a member has any jurisdiction, discretion or control over the matter which is the subject of such representation.
Elected Town officials may appear before Town agencies on behalf of constituents in the course of their duties as representatives of the electorate or in the performance of public or civic obligations. However, the disclosure requirements of Subsection A above shall be applicable to such appearances.
Ad hoc committee exceptions. No violation of the conflict-of-interest restrictions of this section shall exist, however, where an individual serves on a special ad hoc committee charged with the narrow responsibility of addressing a specific issue or topic in which that individual, or the employer of a client of that individual, has an interest, so long as the individual discloses to the Town Board that such interest exists.
Contracts with the Town. No Town official or employee who, in his capacity as such officer or employee, participates in the making of a contract in which he or she has a private pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, or performs in regard to that contract with some function requiring the exercise of discretion on his part shall enter into any contract with the Town unless, within the confines of § 946.13, Wis. Stats.:
The contract is awarded through a process of public notice and competitive bidding or the Town Board waives the requirement of this section after determining that it is in the best interest of the Town to do so.
The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to the designation of a public depository of public funds.
This section governs the proposed hiring of individuals for full-time or part-time work as Town employees who are members of the immediate family of Town employees or elected officials.
Hiring an immediate family member of any current Town employee or elected Town 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 either the current employee or the relative seeking employment will make the personal interest relationship known to the hiring authority (department head, board or commission, or Town Board) before a hiring decision is made; in every case, the decision to hire an immediate family member or former spouse will be subject to Town Board approval, with notice, before the new employee is permitted to begin work. Marriage between two individuals already employed by the Town 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 a Town Board, commission or committee; nonelected officials, however, 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 if currently employed or being considered for employment by the Town.
Any questions as to the interpretation of any provisions of this Ethics Code Chapter shall be referred to the Town Attorney. Such requests shall be as detailed as possible and shall be made in writing. Advisory requests and opinions shall be kept confidential, except when disclosure is authorized by the requestor, in which case the request and opinion may be made public.
The Town Attorney shall accept a verified written complaint from any person which states the name of the public official or public employee alleged to have committed a violation of this Ethics Code and sets forth the material facts involved in the allegation. Within 10 days the Town Attorney shall forward a copy of the complaint to the accused public official or public employee and to each member of the Town Board.
If the Town Board finds reasonable suspicion to investigate the allegations of the complaint, the Town Board may direct the Town Attorney to conduct a preliminary investigation with respect to the alleged violation or the Town Board may conduct its own investigation of the alleged violation after the accused public official or public employee has been notified in writing of the exact nature and purpose of the investigation and the specific actions or activities to be investigated.
If, after investigation, the Town Board finds that probable cause exists for believing the allegations of the complaint, the Town Board may:
Request the public official or public employee conform his or her conduct to the Ethics Code;
Discipline, suspend or terminate any public employee;
Issue a censure or public reprimand to the public official or public employee; or
Refer the matter to the Columbia County District Attorney to commence enforcement proceedings consistent with Wis. Stats., § 19.59.