[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Ithaca 11-7-2011 by L.L. No. 14-2011. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Defense and indemnification — See Ch. 28.
Editor's Note: This local law also repealed former Ch. 32, Ethics, Code of, adopted 1-13-1992 by L.L. No. 4-1992, as amended.
The purpose of this chapter is to establish minimum standards of conduct to help ensure that the business of government is free from improper influence that may result in opportunities for private gain. The Town of Ithaca recognizes that public officials must exercise their official duties solely in the public interest, and must avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. The standards and guidelines set forth in this chapter are intended to minimize unwarranted suspicion and to avoid potential conflicts of interest before they arise. Notwithstanding any specific omissions in this chapter, it is the responsibility of public officials to come forth with information regarding personal involvement in matters before the Town and to avoid associations or actions that may interfere with the proper discharge of their public duties.
The rules of ethical conduct of this chapter shall be in addition to those of §§ 810 through 813 of the General Municipal Law and any other general or specific law relating to ethical conduct and interest in contracts of municipal officers and employees. To the extent the provisions of this chapter conflict with the provisions of §§ 810 through 813 of the General Municipal Law regarding the filing of disclosure statements and the materials to be disclosed, it is intended that the provisions of this chapter shall supersede the analogous provisions of the General Municipal Law.
Unless otherwise specified, this chapter shall apply to all elected and appointed officials except citizen board and citizen committee appointees (the officials to whom this chapter applies are hereinafter referred to as "officials"), attorneys for the Town (whether paid as a Town employee or retained under separate contract or agreement), and all employees of the Town.
For purposes of this chapter, "family" shall include an official's or employee's spouse or equivalent member of a household sharing living expenses, and any of the following, if residing with the official or employee: child, stepchild, brother, sister, parent, dependent.
Applicability. Persons holding the titles listed on the ethics disclosure statement distribution list shall be required to complete an ethics disclosure statement:
The ethics disclosure statement form and distribution list shall be reviewed and approved annually by the Town Board at its organizational meeting.
Such disclosure statements shall be kept on file as public records by the Town Clerk. Public notice of the existence and availability of such file shall be made annually by announcement at the May Town Board meeting and publication in the official newspaper.
Matters to be disclosed shall include holdings or associations as described on the ethics disclosure statement within the twelve-month period up to and including the time of filing.
Officials, employees, their spouse/equivalents, or any person or entity acting on their behalf may not solicit or accept monetary gifts or loans of any amount or promise thereof, or any gift, including services, entertainment, thing, or promise thereof, having a value of $75 or more, from any person or agent of a person, corporation, partnership, unincorporated association or other entity who the official or employee knows is considering or has had, within the previous 12 months, any business dealing with the Town of Ithaca that involves any discretionary act by the official or employee.
Refreshments or meals that are provided as part of an informational presentation in a group setting or as part of a reception shall not be considered gifts under this section.
Except as required by law, officials and employees may not disclose confidential information acquired during the course of their official duties or use such information to further their personal interests or the personal interest of their families.
Other than acting solely on behalf of himself/herself, no official or employee may act as a representative before the Town for any entity, including boards and commissions on which the official or employee has represented the Town, that has a business dealing, including requests for rezoning, variances, legislation, bids on contracts, or any other matter before the Town during his or her term of office or employment with the Town. In cases in which an official or employee represents himself or herself on a matter before the Town, he or she will refrain from voting or otherwise taking discretionary action on the matter, as provided in § 32-7 of this chapter.
For a period of four years after termination of his or her term of office or employment with the Town, other than acting solely on behalf of himself/herself, no former official or employee may appear before the Town, including boards and commissions on which the official or employee has represented the Town, in relation to any matter upon which he or she took any discretionary action during his or her term of office or employment with the Town, unless requested to provide information by the Town.
A Town official shall exercise due diligence in avoiding conflict of interest when voting on matters brought before the Town by entities with whom the official is employed as a non-officer. Any action that could reasonably be interpreted as potentially benefiting the official's career advancement, salary, or standing within an organization shall be deemed a conflict of interest and be subject to the provisions of § 32-7 of this chapter.
Definitions. For purposes of this section the following definitions shall apply to acts under this section:
- Any claim, account or demand against or agreement with a municipality, express or implied, and shall include the designation of a depository of public funds and the designation of a newspaper, including but not limited to, an official newspaper, for the publication of any notice, resolution, ordinance, or other proceeding where such publication is required or authorized by law. "Contract" shall also include, for the purposes of this section, an approval or denial of a rezoning, subdivision, or variance, and shall also include a determination of environmental significance.
- A direct or indirect pecuniary or material benefit accruing to an official or employee as a result of a contract with the Town which such official or employee serves. For the purposes of this section, an official or employee shall be deemed to have an interest in the contract of:
- (1) His/her spouse, minor children and dependents;
- (2) A person, business, or other entity who has given campaign contributions of more than $1,000 in the aggregate during the official's last political election;
- (3) Business partners, or a business, association, or other entity of which the official or employee is an owner, partner, officer, director, or significant shareholder; and
- (4) A person, business, partnership, corporation, or other entity who is represented in a professional capacity (such as attorney-client or real estate broker-customer) by the official or employee or by any business, partnership, corporation or other entity of which the official or employee is an owner, partner, officer, director or significant shareholder.
Prohibited actions. Whenever an official or employee is called upon to vote on, advise on, or otherwise take discretionary action on a contract before the Town in which the official or employee has an interest, the official or employee shall immediately declare the nature of the interest and shall refrain from taking any action or inaction that would affect the outcome of the matter. Such declaration shall be made a part of the public record concerning the matter.
Interpretation. All instances involving the appropriateness of abstention from discussion and voting by a member of a Board by virtue of Subsection B above may be referred to the Ethics Board, who will render an opinion on the propriety of such voting within 30 days. Such interpretive opinion may be requested by any member of the Board.
Large-scale land speculation by officials may be perceived as an abuse of the privilege of office. It is recommended that during his or her term of office and for a period of 12 months thereafter, such official, his or her spouse/equivalent, and his or her business or other entity of which the official or spouse/equivalent is an owner, partner, officer, director, or holder of controlling interest, shall not acquire real property, or any financial or development interest in real property, of more than a total of 25 acres zoned residential, or more than five acres zoned commercial anywhere in the Town of Ithaca or its contiguous boundaries, for purposes other than the official's primary residence. Land purchased in an agricultural district for agricultural use is excluded from this recommendation. A failure to comply with this section shall not be a violation of this chapter.
During his or her term of office, no member of the Town Board, Planning Board, or Zoning Board of Appeals or his or her spouse/equivalent shall enter into a business relationship with any other member of said Boards for the purpose of buying, selling, developing, or holding real property in the Town of Ithaca or outside the Town contiguous to its immediate boundaries.
Any person who intentionally induces any official or employee to take any action or refrain from taking any action, which action or inaction violates any provision of this chapter, shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, and shall be barred from doing business with the Town of Ithaca for a period of five years.
Nothing herein shall be deemed to bar the timely filing by a present or former official or employee of any claim, demand, or suit against the Town on behalf of him/herself or his/her family arising out of any personal injury or property damage or for any lawful benefit, or from receiving a municipal service or benefit that is generally available to the public.
The local Ethics Board in existence immediately prior to the effective date of this chapter shall continue in existence. Members of the Ethics Board serving immediately prior to the effective date of this chapter shall continue to serve on the Ethics Board with the same terms of office that existed under the prior law. The Ethics Board consists of five persons, reviews the ethics disclosure statements and this Code of Ethics, and recommends to the Town Board any changes which it deems appropriate. It also renders advisory opinions on any matter of ethical conduct of Town officials and employees, on its own initiative or at the written request of the Town Board or any official, employee, or private citizen. The Ethics Board shall have the power to conduct investigations and refer cases to the Town Board for consideration of appropriate action. The Ethics Board may establish rules for its own operations, but whether included or not, the following procedures shall pertain to its activities:
The Ethics Board shall state in writing the disposition of every request for opinion and every investigation it conducts, and the reasons for the disposition.
Any changes in this chapter that are recommended by the Ethics Board shall be discussed and acted upon by the Town Board in open session, with Town Board action occurring within two months of the issuance of the recommendations to the extent such timing is reasonably possible in light of scheduling constraints and the other responsibilities of the Town Board.
The Ethics Board may not conduct investigations of itself or any of its members. Complaints against any member of the Ethics Board shall be made to the Town Board.
Appointment and removal.
Term of office. The term of office of Ethics Board members shall be five years. No member shall serve more than two consecutive terms.
Members of the Ethics Board shall be chosen from among Tompkins County residents.
No Ethics Board member shall hold office in any political party. For this purpose, membership on a Town, county, state, or national party committee shall not be deemed to be holding office in a political party; provided, however, that any person who is a chairperson, vice chairperson, secretary, treasurer, or the holder of any similar office in a Town, county, state, or national party committee shall be deemed to be holding office in a political party.
No more than two Ethics Board members may be from the same political party.
From the period of 12 months prior to appointment throughout his or her term of office, no Ethics Board member or member of his or her family shall hold elected or any other appointed office or employment with the Town of Ithaca, except as a member of a citizens' advisory board.
From the period of 12 months prior to appointment throughout his or her term of office, no Ethics Board member shall be a party to any proceeding before the Town of Ithaca or have business dealings with the Town of Ithaca other than normal, routine, ministerial requests, such as applications for building permits, certificates of occupancy or certificates of compliance, marriage licenses, or other similar ministerial matters.
[Amended 5-12-2014 by L.L. No. 2-2014]
Applicability. Members of the Ethics Board shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter.
Violation of this chapter shall be punishable as a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum criminal fine of $500, and in addition, violators are subject to civil penalties not to exceed $100 per violation and/or disciplinary action as provided by law. The Town may also seek injunctive relief to enjoin a violation or compel compliance with this chapter.