[HISTORY: Adopted by the Village Board of the Village of Fredonia as Title 2, Ch. 5, of the 1995 Code. 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 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 in this chapter a Code of Ethics for all Village of Fredonia 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 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 Village of Fredonia and by directing disclosure by such officials and employees of private financial or other interests in matters affecting the Village. The Village Board believes that a Code of Ethics 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 the Village in their elected and appointed officials and employees. The Village Board hereby reaffirms that each elected and appointed Village 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 Village of Fredonia.
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 employment, but does not include compensation or expense reimbursement paid by the Village, honorariums, fees and expenses under the standards and reporting requirements set forth in § 19.56, Wisconsin Statutes, campaign contributions as regulated by § 49-6C of this chapter, or hospitality extended for a purpose unrelated to Village business by a person other than a firm, corporation, partnership, or joint venture.
- 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.
- PERSONAL INTEREST
- Any interest arising from blood or marriage relationships or from close business or political associations, whether or not any financial interest is involved.
- 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 61 of the Wisconsin Statutes, and all members appointed to boards, committees and commissions established or appointed by the Village President and/or 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.
There are certain provisions of the Wisconsin Statutes which should, while not set forth herein, be considered an integral part of any Code of Ethics. Accordingly, the provisions of the following sections of the Wisconsin Statutes, as from time to time amended, are made a part of this Code of Ethics and shall apply to public officials and employees whenever applicable, to wit:
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 rules 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 or by officially recognized confidentiality of their work.
Members of the Village staff are expected to follow their appropriate professional code of ethics. Staff members shall file a copy of such professional ethics codes with the Village Clerk-Treasurer. The Village Board shall notify the appropriate professional ethics board of any ethics violations involving Village employees covered by such professional standards.
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 services are available to the public generally or are provided as Village policy for the use of such official or employee in the conduct of official business, as authorized by the Village Board or authorized board, commission or committee.
Obligations to citizens. No official or employee shall grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizen beyond that which is available to every other citizen. No official or employee shall sue or attempt to use his or her position with the Village to secure any advantage, preference or gain, over and above his rightful remuneration and benefits, for himself or for a member of his or her immediate family.
Political contributions. No official shall personally solicit from any Village employee, other than an elected official, a contribution to a political campaign committee for which the person subject to this chapter is a candidate or treasurer.
Use of Village stationery. Copies of any correspondence written on Village stationery shall be filed with the Village Clerk-Treasurer or his designee.
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 provisions 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 on the records of the Village Board the nature and extent of such interest; such official shall not participate in debate or vote for adoption or defeat of such legislation. If the matter before the Village Board involves a member's personal interest with persons involved, the member may participate in debate or discussion and vote on the matter following disclosure, unless an ordinance or contract is involved; if an ordinance or contract is involved, such official shall not participate in debate or discussion and vote on the matter.
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 or 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, without proper legal authorization, 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 interest of the official or employee or others.
Incompatible employment. No official or employee shall engage in or accept private employment or render service, for private interest, when such employment or service is incompatible with the proper discharge of his or her official duties or would tend to impair such official or employee's independence of judgment or action in the performance of his or her official duties, unless otherwise permitted by law and unless disclosure is made as hereinafter provided.
Gifts and favors.
No official or employee shall accept or offer to accept anything of value from any person who, to his or her knowledge, is interested directly or indirectly, or is seeking an interest, directly or indirectly, in any manner whatsoever in business dealing with the Village, or from any person who conducts activities which are regulated by the Village, or from any person who has interests which may be substantially affected by actions of the Village.
No official or employee shall accept or offer to accept anything of value that may tend to influence such official or employee 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.
Gifts received under unusual circumstances should be referred to the Village Board within 10 days for recommended disposition.
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 are excluded from this prohibition. This paragraph 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.
Representing private interests before Village agencies or courts.
Nonelected Village officials and employees shall not appear on behalf of any private person (other than him- or herself, his or her spouse or minor children) before any Village agency, board, commission or committee of which the official or employee is a member or has any jurisdiction, discretion or control over the matter which is the subject of such representation.
Elected Village officials may appear before Village agencies on behalf of constituents in the course of their duties as representative 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 or a client of that individual, has an interest so long as the individual discloses to the Village Board that such interest exists.
Contracts with the Village. No official or employee who, in his or her capacity as such officer or employee, participates in the making of a contract in which such officer or employee has a private pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, or performs in regard to that contract, some function requiring the exercise of discretion on the part of such official or employee, shall enter into any contract with the Village unless:
The contract is awarded through a process of public notice and competitive bidding;
The contract or activity is exempt from or otherwise deemed appropriate by § 946.13, Wis. Statutes;
The Village Board waives this requirement after determining that it is in the best interest of the Village to do so.
When an official or employee has doubt as to the applicability of a provision of this section, such official or employee may apply to the Ethics Board for an advisory opinion. The official or employee shall have the opportunity to present his or her interpretation of the facts at issue and of the applicability of provisions of this section before such advisory decision is made. This section shall be operative in all instances covered by its provisions, except when superseded by an applicable statutory provision and statutory action is mandatory, or when the application of a statutory provision is discretionary but determined to be more appropriate or desirable.
Membership. There is hereby created an Ethics Board consisting of five voting members and two alternates who shall be compensated the same as other committee members. The members of the Ethics Board shall be residents of the Village or full-time employees of a business located in the Village. The members shall not be officials or employees of the Village, 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 members shall not be immediate family members of a Village official or employee. Each member shall be appointed by the Village President and subject to confirmation by the Village Board. Terms of office shall be three years, except that when the initial appointments are made, one member shall be appointed for one year, two shall be appointed for two years and two for three years. The alternates shall be appointed for three-year terms, except that when the initial appointments are made, one alternate shall be appointed for one year and one shall be appointed for two years. The alternates serve on the Board when one of the citizen members is unavailable. The Board shall elect its own Chairman and Vice Chairman. The Village Attorney shall furnish the Board legal assistance when necessary and when doing so does not present a conflict of interest to the Village Attorney. With the prior approval of the Village Board, the Ethics Board may retain independent counsel when the Village Attorney is unable to provide legal assistance to the Board. The Village Clerk-Treasurer shall serve as the Ethics Board Secretary.
Powers and duties.
The Ethics Board shall adopt and develop written rules which shall be submitted to the Village Board for approval. A copy of such rules shall be filed with the Village Clerk-Treasurer.
Any person to whom this section applies may apply, in writing, to the Ethics Board for an advisory opinion as to the interpretation and application of this section and shall be guided by the opinion rendered. Such person shall have the opportunity to present his interpretation of the facts at issue and of the applicability of provisions of this section before the advisory decision is rendered. No Trustee may attend a meeting of the Ethics Board unless requested to do so by the Ethics Board. Meetings for deliberations and action upon such applications shall not be open to the public. Opinions rendered by the Ethics Board shall be in writing. Records of the Ethics Board's opinions, opinion requests and investigations of violations shall be closed to public inspection. The Ethics Board, however, may make such records public with the consent of the individual requesting the advisory opinion or in the event that individual makes public any portion of the opinion. In the event the Ethics Board deems it necessary or appropriate, it may request an advisory opinion from the Village Attorney. The Ethics Board may, if it determines that its opinion in response to a request for an advisory opinion as to the interpretation or application of a provision of this Code of Ethics to certain fact situations would be of value to other officials or employees in terms of providing guidance or guidelines in future fact, situations of a same or similar nature, issue a summary opinion setting forth what it deems to be appropriate conduct in such a manner that it does not disclose the identity of the individual whose original request prompted the issuance of such summary opinion.
All complaints shall be in writing and verified and shall state the name of the official or employee alleged to have committed a violation of this section and the particulars thereof. Complaints shall be addressed to the Ethics Board and filed with the Village Clerk-Treasurer.
Within 14 days after the filing of a properly verified complaint, the Ethics Board shall meet to accept the complaint. Within three days after accepting the complaint, the Ethics Board shall mail a copy of the complaint to the accused by certified mail.
Following the acceptance of a verified complaint, the Ethics Board may make preliminary investigations with respect to alleged violation of this section. No preliminary investigation of the activities of any official or employee may be initiated unless such official or employee is notified in writing by certified mail. The notice shall state the exact nature and purpose of the investigation, the individual's specific actions or activities to be investigated and a statement of such person's due process rights. The preliminary investigation shall be completed within 30 days from acceptance of a verified complaint, except that the Ethics Board may extend that period an additional 30 days with like notice to the official or employee and to the complainant.
If, after such investigation, the Ethics Board finds that probable cause does not exist for believing the allegations of the complaint or believing that the conduct complained of violates the Ethics Code, it shall dismiss the complaint. The Ethics Board shall promptly notify the accused and the complainant of its decision in writing by certified mail. The Ethics Board's decision to dismiss a complaint shall be final. The same complaint or a complaint which is substantially the same shall not be reconsidered by the Ethics Board unless the complainant provides additional material information which was not available to the complainant at the time the original complaint was filed and which, if true, would probably change the outcome. The Ethics Board's decision to reconsider or not to reconsider shall be final.
If, after such investigation, the Ethics Board finds that probable cause exists for believing the allegations of the complaint, it shall conduct a hearing on the matter which shall be held not more than 30 days after such finding. The Ethics Board shall give the accused at least 20 days' notice of the hearing date. Such hearings shall be at open session unless the accused petitions for a hearing closed to the public. The rules of criminal evidence shall apply to such hearings. All evidence, including certified copies of records and documents, which the Ethics Board considers, shall be fully offered and made part of the record in the case. Every party shall be afforded adequate opportunity to rebut or offer countervailing evidence.
During all stages of any investigation or proceeding conducted under this section, the accused shall be entitled to be represented by counsel of his own choosing.
The accused or his representative shall have an adequate opportunity to examine all documents and records to be used at the hearing under Subsection B(7) above at a reasonable time before the date of the hearing as well as during the hearing to bring witnesses, establish all pertinent facts and circumstances and to question or refute any testimony or evidence, including the opportunity to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.
The Ethics Board shall have the power to compel the attendance of witnesses and to issue subpoenas granted other boards and commissioners under § 885.01(3), Wisconsin Statutes.
Upon conclusion of the hearing, the Ethics Board shall file its decision within five days, in writing, signed by all participating Ethics Board members, with findings of fact, conclusions of law concerning the propriety of the conduct of the official or employee and, if appropriate, refer the matter to the Village Board or other proper authority with a recommendation for suspension, removal from office or employment, or other disciplinary action.
A determination that an official or employee's actions constitute improper conduct under the provisions of this chapter shall constitute a cause for suspension, removal from office or employment or other disciplinary action. Sanctions will require a 2/3 vote of the entire membership of the Village Board.
No full-time officer or employee of the Village shall engage in other ongoing, significant remunerative employment outside regular Village employment if it interferes with the employee's ability to satisfactorily and safely perform his primary employment with the Village; provided, that the Village Board may approve such outside employment or activity if it finds that it does not interfere or conflict with such officer's ability to perform his duties in an efficient and unbiased manner. Violation of this provision shall be grounds for removal from office of any such officer or employee.
The Village Clerk-Treasurer shall cause a copy of this Code of Ethics to be distributed to every public official and employee of the Village within 30 days after enactment of this section. Each public official and employee elected, appointed or engaged thereafter shall be furnished a copy before entering upon his duties.
Each public official, the Village President, the Chairman of each board, commission or committee and head of each department shall, between May 1 and May 31 of each year, review the provisions of this code with his fellow Trustees or board, commission, committee members or subordinates, as the case may be, and certify to the Village Clerk-Treasurer by June 15 that such annual review had been undertaken. A copy of this Ethics Code shall be continuously posted at the Village Hall.
Each public official and employee shall, in connection with Subsections A and B above, also complete and file with the Department head, as appropriate, the following statement of understanding:
"I have read and understand the contents of the Village of Fredonia Ethics Code, including the attached state statutes. I also understand that I am expected to adhere to and conduct myself according to rules, guidance and direction as set forth in the Ethics Code." (§§ 946.10 through 946.15, Wis. Stats.)
This chapter shall be operative in all instances covered by its provisions, except when superseded by an applicable statutory provision and statutory action, or when the application of a statutory provision is discretionary but determined by the Board to be more appropriate.
[Added at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II)]
Violations of this chapter and the Code of Ethics are punishable pursuant to § 19.59(3)(f), Wis. Stats.
Editor's Note: See the Village's Schedule of Forfeitures for current penalties.