[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Saratoga Springs 4-11-2006 by L.L. No. 1-2006; readopted 4-4-1994 by L.L. No. 1-1994; amended in its entirety 12-15-2015 by L.L. No. 2-2015. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
Defense and indemnification — See Ch. 9.
Pursuant to the provisions of § 806 of the General Municipal Law, the City Council of the City of Saratoga Springs recognizes that there are standards of ethical conduct for public officers and employees which must be observed if a high degree of moral conduct is to be expected and if public confidence is to be maintained by our City government. It is the purpose of this chapter to promulgate these rules of ethical conduct for officers and employees of the City of Saratoga Springs. These rules shall serve as a guide for official conduct of officers and employees of the City of Saratoga Springs. The rules of ethical conduct of this chapter, as adopted, shall not conflict with but shall be in addition to any prohibition of Article 18 of the General Municipal Law or any other general or special law relating to ethical conduct and interest in contracts of municipal officers and employees.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- APPEAR and APPEAR BEFORE
- Communicating in any form, including, without limitation, personally, through another person, by letter, telephone, facsimile, electronic mail, social media or by other means.
- CITY GOVERNMENT
- Includes the City Council and all departments, offices, boards, committees, bureaus and instrumentalities of the government of the City of Saratoga Springs.
- CITY WORKPLACE
- CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION
- Any data acquired through the course of employment or public office which is protected from disclosure by law and/or through the City's Red Flag Policy adopted by the City Council on January 4, 2011.
- A. Any person to whom an officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs has supplied goods or services, including, but not limited to, professional services, during the previous 24 months, having, in the aggregate, a value greater than $1,000; or
- B. Any person to whom an officer's or employee's outside employer or business has supplied goods or services, including, but not limited to, professional services, during the previous 24 months, having, in the aggregate, a value greater than $1,000, but only if the officer or employee knows or has reason to know the outside employer or business supplied the goods or services.
- Includes spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, children (including children of spouse or domestic partner), grandchildren and the spouses of any of them, and any member of the individual's household.
- GIFT and FINANCIAL BENEFIT
- Includes anything of value, including, but not limited to, money, services, referrals, discounts, licenses, permits, contracts, authorizations, loans, travel, entertainment, hospitality, or any other gratuity or promise thereof. A financial transaction may be a financial benefit but shall not be a gift unless it is on terms not available to the general public. "Gift" and "financial benefit" do not include campaign contributions authorized by law.
- Any and all persons who reside in the same dwelling unit as the officer or employee.
- NOT-FOR-PROFIT ENTITY
- A legal entity created under the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law of the State of New York.
- OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE OF THE CITY OF SARATOGA SPRINGS
- An officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs, whether paid or unpaid, including, without limitation, all officers, employees, volunteers, interns and members of any advisory and/or decisionmaking board, body, council, commission, agency, department, district, administration, bureau, or committee of the City of Saratoga Springs. "Officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs" shall not include a judge, justice, officer, or employee of the Unified Court System.
- A. Any activity, other than service to the City of Saratoga Springs, from which the officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs receives compensation, or the promise of compensation, for work performed, services rendered or goods sold or produced while a City officer or employee; or
- B. Any entity, other than the City of Saratoga Springs, of which the officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs is a member, owner, principal, shareholder, officer, or employee and from which he or she receives compensation for services rendered or goods sold or produced; or
- C. Any entity in which an officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs has an ownership interest, except a corporation of which the officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs owns less than 5% of the outstanding stock. For purposes of this definition, "compensation" shall not include reimbursement for necessary expenses, including travel expenses.
- Includes both individuals and entities.
- POLITICAL PARTY OFFICER
- Any person serving or acting as the Chair, Vice Chair, First Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, delegate, or equivalent officers by whatever name or title known, of any political party or committee organized for the purpose of nominating persons for elective office in the government of the City of Saratoga Springs.
- SUBORDINATE OF AN OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE OF THE CITY OF SARATOGA SPRINGS
- Another officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs over whose activities he or she has direction, supervision, or control.
General prohibition. A City officer or employee shall not use his or her official position or office, or take or fail to take any action, in a manner which he or she knows, or has reason to know, may result in a personal financial benefit for any of the following persons:
The City officer or employee;
His or her outside employer or business;
A member of his or her household;
A customer or client;
A member of his or her family; or
Any firm, corporation, association, partnership or other organization in which the City officer or employee, or a member of his or her family, serves as an officer or director, whether compensated or not compensated.
Specific City officers and employees.
Officers or employees who are professionally licensed. All City officers and employees with professional licenses are prohibited from knowingly exercising any discretion in any matter of City business which shall involve any person or entity which is a client of his or her business or firm or a business partner, contractor or subcontractor in a business endeavor of his or her business or firm.
Officers or employees who are authorized to review engineering drawings, conduct inspections and issue permits.
No City officer or employee who is authorized to review and approve engineering drawings, conduct inspections or issue permits shall engage in a business within the City or have a financial interest in any firm engaged in a business within the City if said business conducts, as a regular and significant part of its business, matters requiring such inspections or such permits.
No officer or employee who is authorized to review and approve engineering drawings, conduct inspections and/or issue permits shall act as an expert witness for any entity other than the City, under circumstances where all or part of his or her expert testimony is based on certifications or credentials provided and/or paid for by the City, while employed by the City.
Any such City officer and/or employee shall recuse himself/herself from reviewing any engineering drawings, conducting any such inspection or issuing any necessary permits that directly pertain to any person or entity which is a customer or client of his or her business or firm, or a person materially involved in a business endeavor of his or her business or firm.
Public safety. No public safety officer shall have any interest in or be employed in the City by any company, corporation, partnership, association or individual for the purpose of providing private investigations, accident reconstruction, fire prevention, fire inspection or any other activity reasonably related to such public safety officer's employment with the City. However, this subsection shall not be construed as prohibiting membership or service in volunteer fire or emergency medical organizations. Additionally, public safety officers may be employed in the City for the purpose of providing security or traffic services consistent with City policies.
The foregoing City officers and employees are listed due to the unique nature of their offices and positions which, in turn, raises ethical conflicts unique to those offices and positions. This list is not to be deemed all-inclusive. Every City officer and employee shall endeavor to pursue a course of conduct consistent with the spirit of this chapter as well as the actual provisions and strive to act so as not to raise suspicion among the public that he or she is likely to be engaged in activities that are in violation of his or her trust.
Gifts. Except as set forth below, a City officer or employee shall not directly or indirectly solicit, accept or agree to accept any gift or favor, whether in the form of money, services, loans, travel, entertainment, hospitality, material items, promise or any other form, under circumstances in which it could reasonably be inferred that the gift was intended to influence such City officer or employee, or could reasonably be expected to influence such City officer or employee, in the performance of his or her official duties or was intended as a reward for any official action taken by such City officer or employee. This restriction shall not be construed as applying to the following situations in which gifts or benefits are:
Received by the officer or employee from his or her parent, spouse, child or sibling;
Accepted on behalf of the City and transferred to the City;
Received as refreshments or meals at a widely attended gathering;
Received for the solemnization of a marriage by an officer or employee of the City of Saratoga Springs listed in § 11 of the Domestic Relations Law at a place other than his or her normal place of business or at a time other than his or her normal hours of business and which have a value of $75 or less;
Received as nonmonetary awards from charitable organizations; or
Received as City services or benefits, or the use of City facilities, generally available on the same terms and conditions to residents or a class of residents in the municipality.
Confidential information. He or she shall not 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 interest or the personal interest of other individuals or entities for personal gain or profit.
Representation before one's own agency. He or she shall not receive or enter into any agreement, express or implied, for compensation for services to be rendered in relation to any matter before any municipal agency of which he or she is an officer, member or employee or of any municipal agency over which he or she has jurisdiction or to which he or she has the power to appoint any member, officer or employee.
Representation before any agency for a contingent fee. He or she shall not receive or enter into any agreement, express or implied, for compensation for services to be rendered in relation to any matter before any agency of his or her municipality whereby his or her compensation is to be dependent or contingent upon any action by such agency with respect to such matter, provided that this subsection shall not prohibit the fixing at any time of fees based upon the reasonable value of the services rendered.
Disclosure of interest in legislation. To the extent that he or she knows thereof, any officer or employee of the City Council and any officer or employee of the City, whether paid or unpaid, who participates in the discussion or gives official opinion to the City Council on any legislation before the City Council shall publicly disclose on the official record at an open meeting the nature and extent of any direct or indirect financial or other private interest he or she has in such legislation, including any involvement in current or past litigation.
Investments in conflict with official duties. Officers and/or employees shall not invest or hold any investment, directly or indirectly, in any financial, business, commercial or other private transaction which creates a conflict with their official City duties.
Outside employer or business. Officers and/or employees shall not engage in, solicit, negotiate for or promise to accept work for an outside employer or business who does business with the City which creates an implied conflict with or impairs the proper discharge of his official duties or results in personal gain.
Future employment. No officer and/or employee shall, after the conclusion of service or employment with the City, appear before any board or agency of the City in relation to any case, proceeding, project or application in which he or she personally participated during the period of his or her service or employment or which was under his or her active consideration.
Right to engage in political activity; prohibition on coercion; prohibition on political solicitation in a City workplace.
Officers or employees shall not use City workplace to influence any person to participate in an election campaign or political event or to contribute to a political party, committee, campaign or candidate.
Officers or employees shall not use a City workplace to influence, or authorize or request another to influence, any officer or employee to support or refuse to support a political party, committee, campaign or candidate.
Officers or employees shall not display, distribute or otherwise utilize election campaign literature or materials at a City workplace; however, this prohibition shall not be construed as prohibiting the wearing of small lapel pins by any person.
Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to deny any officer or employee the right to support or refuse to support any political party, committee, campaign or candidate outside of the workplace.
Inducement of others. No officer or employee of the City shall induce, threaten or coerce or aid another officer or employee of the City to violate any of the provisions of this Code of Ethics.
City employees. No officer or employee of the City shall direct or cause any subordinate officer or employee to do or perform any service or work outside of the scope of his or her public work responsibilities or employment.
City property. No officer or employee shall use, request or permit the use of City-owned property, including, but not limited to, vehicles, equipment, materials or supplies, for personal convenience, use or profit, except when such goods or services are available to the public generally or are used by the officer or employee in compliance with City policy for such use, or where the use of City-owned property for personal use is part of the officer or employee's compensation.
Conflict with other codes of conduct.
Because of the need for professional integrity and the fact that various professional associations have adopted standards of ethics and/or conduct for their members, the City hereby recognizes that each City officer or employee who is affected by a professional Code of Ethics and/or conduct be bound, in addition to this chapter, by said Codes of Ethics and/or conduct. Any conflict between the provisions of this chapter and a given professional code of conduct of a City officer or employee shall be resolved by the Ethics Board. An officer or employee's professional code of conduct shall be examined in the context of the City Code of Ethics and the New York State Public Officers Law for relevance and applicability as issues arise.
The Ethics Board is authorized and required to obtain advisory opinions from the appropriate professional association to clarify any given situation.
Interest in contracts with the City.
Prohibited interests. No City officer or employee shall have any financial interest in a business relationship, financial instrument, contract with the City, or an interest in a bank or trust company, that is prohibited by § 801 of the General Municipal Law of the State of New York. Any contract willfully entered into by or with the City in which there is an interest prohibited by that section shall be null, void, and wholly unenforceable, to the extent provided by § 804 of that law.
Disclosable interests. Any City officer or employee who has, will have, or later acquires an interest in any actual or proposed contract with the City shall disclose, in writing, the nature and extent of that interest in accordance with § 803 of the General Municipal Law and promptly file such written disclosure with the City Clerk. The City Clerk shall cause a copy of that disclosure to be filed promptly with the Ethics Board.
Violations. Any City officer or employee who willfully and knowingly violates the provisions of this section shall be subject to penalties as provided by § 805 of the General Municipal Law.
Recusal. When a City officer or employee is required to recuse himself or herself under this Code of Ethics, he or she must state that he or she is doing so at a public meeting on the public record. The officer or employee shall immediately refrain from participating in the matter further and must physically remove himself or herself from the room where the matter is being discussed.
In addition to and not in limitation of other standards in this chapter, the following standards shall apply to appointed members of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Design Review Commission, hereinafter referred to as "land use boards":
Required recusal. An appointed member of a land use board shall publicly disclose on the official record at an open meeting, and shall recuse himself or herself from participating further in reviewing an application before his or her board, under any of the following circumstances:
During the 12 months preceding the filing of the application before the member's board, the member has been employed, with or without compensation, by either the applicant or the property owner named in the application.
During the 12 months preceding the filing of the application before the member's board, either the applicant or the property owner named in the application has supplied goods and/or services to the applicant, including but not limited to professional services, having an aggregate value greater than $2,000.
During the 12 months preceding the filing of the application before the member's board, the member has received from either the applicant or the property owner named in the application a gift or gifts having an aggregate value greater than $75.
At any time following the filing of the application before the member's board, the member has received from either the applicant or the property owner a gift valued at any amount.
The member is the owner of record of real property situated within 100 feet of the property that is the subject of the filed application.
Any member of the member's family is presently employed by either the applicant or the property owner named in the application.
The member is an officer of a financial institution that will be financing, in whole or in part, the project that is the subject of the application.
Required disclosure. An appointed member of a land use board shall publicly disclose on the official record at an open meeting any of the following:
That during the 12 months preceding the filing of the application before the member's board, the member was employed, with or without compensation, by any agent representing the applicant or assisting in the application.
Any ex parte communication between the member and an applicant who has an application before the member's board, and/or an applicant's representative, and/or any interested party. The member shall disclose who he or she communicated with and the substance of what was communicated.
That the member is the owner of record of real property situated within 500 feet of the property that is the subject of the application.
That the member is an officer or board member of any organization that has submitted or will submit comments or input on the application.
That the member has a close personal relationship with the applicant or the property owner named in the application.
Public comments and statements to news media should be communicated by board chairs or by City staff. Such comments should be as brief and limited as possible.
Former land use board members should not accept employment with applicants who have appeared before their boards within 12 months after the member's departure.
Every official and employee listed in § 13-4C hereinafter must file an Annual Disclosure Form with the Board of Ethics. Annual Disclosure Forms shall be due for filing by February 15. Annual Disclosure Forms shall be maintained in the office of the City Attorney.
With respect to members of boards, committees, commissions, task forces and groups, if any person required to file a Disclosure Form fails to do so by the required date, that person shall thereafter be disqualified from serving as a member of his or her board until such form shall be filed.
Employees and officers who must file Annual Disclosure Forms:
Ethics Board established. The Board of Ethics for the City of Saratoga Springs, which shall consist of five members, is hereby established, one of whom shall be an officer or employee of the City. The City Attorney, or Assistant City Attorney in his or her stead, shall serve as counsel to the Board of Ethics.
Qualifications of members of Ethics Board.
No Ethics Board member shall hold office in a political party or hold elective office in the City.
At any given time, no more than two Ethics Board members may be registered in the same political party, except that this requirement shall not apply to the City officer or employee.
Ethics Board members must be residents of the City throughout their tenure as Board members; provided, however, that a member appointed because he or she is an officer or employee of the City shall not be subject to this requirement.
Appointment of Ethics Board members; term of office.
The Mayor shall appoint the members of the Ethics Board, with the consent of a majority of the City Council. The Board of Ethics shall select its Chairperson annually.
Each Board member shall be appointed to a five-year term.
An Ethics Board member shall serve until his or her successor has been appointed. Consecutive service on an Ethics Board shall not exceed two full terms.
Ethics Board vacancies. Vacancies on the Board of Ethics shall be filled by Mayoral appointment with City Council approval for the unexpired term of the member.
Removal of Ethics Board members. An Ethics Board member may be removed from office by the City Council for failure to meet the qualifications set forth in this chapter, substantial neglect of duties of office, or violation of this chapter, after written notice and opportunity for reply.
Ethics Board meetings. The Ethics Board shall meet at least quarterly. A quorum shall be three members, and a majority of the full Board shall be required for the Ethics Board to take formal action. The Chair or any member may call a meeting of the Ethics Board.
Jurisdiction, powers and duties of Ethics Board.
The Ethics Board may only act with respect to officers and employees of the City of Saratoga Springs.
The termination of a municipal officer's or employee's term of office or employment with the City (on a voluntary or involuntary basis) shall not affect the jurisdiction of the Ethics Board with respect to the requirements imposed by this chapter or by the Act, if any, on a former officer or employee. However, in no event shall the Ethics Board have jurisdiction over a former officer or employee where a hearing has not been commenced pursuant to the provisions of this chapter within one year of the termination of a City officer's or employee's term of office or employment with the City.
The City Ethics Board shall have the following powers and duties:
To prescribe and promulgate rules and regulations by resolution of the Board, governing its own internal organization and procedures in a manner consistent with this chapter, and to cause to be filed with the office of the City Clerk and the office of the City Attorney a copy of those rules and regulations and any amendments thereto;
To request that the Mayor appoint such staff as is necessary to carry out its duties under this chapter;
To review, index, and maintain on file lists of officers and employees and annual and other disclosure statements filed with the Ethics Board pursuant to this chapter;
To review, index, maintain on file, and dispose of written complaints and to make notifications and conduct inquiries pursuant to this chapter;
To conduct hearings, recommend disciplinary action to the appropriate appointing authority, pass resolutions, make referrals, and initiate appropriate actions and proceedings pursuant to this chapter;
To render, index, and maintain on file advisory opinions pursuant to this chapter;
To provide for training, assistance, and education to officers and employees pursuant to this chapter, including the development and distribution of a plain-language ethics guide for use by City employees and officers, including all forms developed by the Ethics Board;
To report annually to the Mayor and the City Council regarding the Board's operations of the previous year and to make recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council, as needed, for changes to this chapter.
Review of lists and disclosure statements.
If the Ethics Board determines that a filed annual disclosure statement is deficient or reveals a possible or potential violation of this chapter, the Ethics Board shall notify the person in writing, state the deficiency or possible or potential violation, provide the person with a thirty-day period to cure the deficiency, and advise the person of the penalties for failure to comply with this chapter. Such notice shall be confidential to the extent permitted by the Public Officers Law. If the person fails to cure the deficiency within the specified time period, the Commission shall send a notice of delinquency:
Inquiries and hearings.
Upon receipt of a written inquiry, or on its own initiative, the Ethics Board shall have the power and duty to conduct any hearing necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. The Ethics Board may administer oaths or affirmations. In conducting any hearing pursuant to this section, the Ethics Board may subpoena witnesses and require the production of any books or records which it may deem relevant and material.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Ethics Board to conduct a hearing with respect to itself or any of its members or staff. In the event the Ethics Board receives an inquiry alleging that the Ethics Board or any of its members or staff has violated any provision of this chapter, or any other law, the Board shall promptly transmit a copy of the complaint to the Mayor and City Council.
The Ethics Board shall state, in writing, the disposition of every written inquiry it receives and of every hearing it conducts and shall set forth the reasons for the disposition. All such statements and all written inquiries shall be indexed and maintained on file by the Ethics Board.
Any person filing a written inquiry with the Ethics Board shall be notified in writing of its disposition.
Referrals by Ethics Board.
Disciplinary action. In the case of a hearing held by the Board, the due process procedural mechanisms shall be substantially similar to those set forth in Article 3 of the State Administrative Procedure Act. The Ethics Board shall conduct and complete the hearing with reasonable promptness, unless, in its discretion, the Ethics Board refers the matter to the authority or person or body authorized by law to impose disciplinary action or unless the Ethics Board refers the matter to the appropriate prosecutor. If such a referral is made, or if a matter is the subject of another governmental inquiry investigation or judicial proceeding, the Ethics Board may adjourn the matter pending a final determination of such matter by the other authority, person, body, or law enforcement agency.
Law enforcement. The Ethics Board shall refer to the appropriate law enforcement agency any facts or evidence that comes into its possession that reasonably indicates possible criminal violations.
Construction as to Ethics Board. Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit an Ethics Board to take any action with respect to any alleged violation of this chapter, or of any other law, by an Ethics Board member or members. Any inquiries regarding Ethics Board members shall be conducted by the City Council under procedures consistent with the procedures set forth in this chapter.
Upon the written request of any person, the Ethics Board may render a written advisory opinion with respect to the interpretation or application of this chapter.
Advisory opinions and requests for advisory opinions shall be indexed and maintained on file by the Ethics Board in the City Attorney's office.
Public inspection of records; public access to meetings.
Nothing herein shall be deemed to bar or prevent the timely filing by a present or former municipal officer or employee of any claim, account, demand or suit against the City of Saratoga Springs, or any agency thereof, on behalf of himself, herself or any member of his or her family arising out of any personal injury or property damage or for any lawful benefit authorized or permitted by law.
The Mayor of the City of Saratoga Springs shall cause a copy of this Code of Ethics to be distributed to every officer and employee of the City within 30 days after the effective date of this chapter. Each officer and employee elected or appointed thereafter shall be furnished a copy before entering upon the duties of his office or employment. Failure to distribute any such copy or failure of any officer or employee to receive such copy shall have no effect on the duty of compliance with such code or the enforcement of provisions thereof.