Pierce County, WI
 
By using eCode360 you agree to be legally bound by the Terms of Use. If you do not agree to the Terms of Use, please do not use eCode360.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Supervisors of Pierce County by Ord. No. 92-4; amended in its entirety 6-27-2000 by Ord. No. 00-06. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Personal use of vehicles — See Ch. 32, Art. II.
A. 
The proper operation of county government demands that:
(1) 
County officials and employees be independent, impartial and responsible to the people.
(2) 
Decisions be made in the proper channels of the county governmental structure.
(3) 
County offices should not be used for personal gain.
(4) 
County business should be conducted in such a way as to reinforce the public's confidence in its integrity.
B. 
In recognition of these fundamental principles, there are created a Code of Ethics and County Ethics Board to establish ethical guidelines, render confidential opinions regarding what conduct is appropriate and redress violations under this code.
A. 
The purpose of this chapter is to establish ethical standards of conduct for all county officials and employees by identifying those acts or actions that are not compatible with the best interest of the county. Because representatives of the county are drawn from society, they cannot and should not be without all personal and economic interest in the decision and policies of government. Citizens who serve as county officials and employees retain their rights as citizens to personal and economic interest. Therefore, the standards of ethical conduct for county officials and employees must distinguish between minor and inconsequential conflicts, which are unavoidable in a free society, and those conflicts which are substantial and material.
B. 
County officials and employees have a right to:
(1) 
Engage in employment and professional or business activities, other than official duties, in order to support themselves and their families.
(2) 
Maintain continuity in their professional or business activities.
(3) 
Maintain investments or activities which do not conflict with specific provisions of this chapter.
C. 
The provisions of this chapter, and such rules and regulations which may be established, are to be interpreted in the context of the above principles and are deemed to be in the best interest of the public. It is the intent of the county that the operations of the Board of Ethics shall strive to protect to the fullest extent possible the rights of individuals affected.
County 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 the State of Wisconsin and to carry out efficiently and impartially all laws of the United States, the State of Wisconsin and Pierce County. Further, they are bound to observe in their official acts the standards of ethics set forth in this code and to faithfully discharge the duties of their office. The public interest must be their primary concern.
This chapter governs all county officials, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, including members of boards, committees and commissions, department heads and other county employees.
Political contributions which are reported under Chapter 11, Wis. Stats., are exempt from the provisions of this chapter.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
ANYTHING OF VALUE
Any money or property, favor, service, payment, advance forbearance, loan or promise of future employment, but does not include such things as compensation and expenses paid by the state or county, fees, honorariums and expenses, unsolicited advertising or promotional material, such as pens, pencils, notepads, calendars, informational or educational materials of unexceptional value, plaques, other advertising giveaways or any other thing which is not likely to influence the judgment of individuals covered by this chapter.
EMPLOYEE
All persons filling an allocated position of county employment and all members of boards, committees and commissions, except members of the County Ethics Board.
FINANCIAL INTEREST
Any interest which yields, directly or indirectly, a monetary or other material benefit to the county officer or employee.
OFFICIAL
All county department heads or directors, county supervisors and all other county elected officers, except judges and district attorneys.
PERSON
Any individual, corporation, partnership, joint venture, association or organization.
PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION
Any written or oral material related to a county department which has not become part of the body of public information and which is designated by statute, court decision, lawful orders, ordinances, resolution or custom as privileged.
NEPOTISM
Favoritism shown to a relative in employing or promoting a person to a county position.
RELATIVE
Wife, husband, son, daughter, mother, father, brother, brother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, stepchild, stepparent and grandparent.
VERIFIED COMPLAINT
A written complaint, signed and notarized.
A. 
Use of public property. An official or employee shall not use or knowingly permit the use of county services or county-owned vehicles, equipment or materials for unauthorized nongovernmental purposes or for unauthorized personal convenience or for profit, unless such services or use is available to the public generally and consistent with practices and policies of the county.
B. 
Obligations to citizens. An official or employee shall not grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizen beyond that which is available to every other citizen. This subsection does not affect the duty of County Supervisors to diligently represent their constituency.
All employees, including elected officials, have the right to freely express their views as citizens and cast their votes, subject to the following:
A. 
No employee or elected official shall directly or indirectly use or seek to use his/her authority or the influence of his/her position to control or modify the political action of another person.
B. 
No employee or elected official during his/her hours of duty shall, except as provided by law, engage in political activities, including:
(1) 
Campaign for any candidate or political party.
(2) 
Make campaign speeches or engage in other activities to elect a candidate.
(3) 
Collect contributions or sell tickets to political fund-raising functions.
(4) 
Distribute campaign material in any election.
(5) 
Organize or manage political meetings.
(6) 
Circulate nominating petitions.
(7) 
Display political badges, buttons or stickers in any county buildings or wear such items during working hours.
C. 
No employee or elected official shall at any time use any county-owned or county-leased equipment for any political activity.
D. 
No employee shall be removed, discharged, reduced in pay or position or otherwise discriminated against because of the employee's political opinions or affiliations, except as provided for in this section.
E. 
Employees whose principal employment is in a federal-grant-aided program are subject to prohibitions in the Federal Hatch Political Activities Act, as amended, 5 U.S.C. §§ 1501 to 1508.
A. 
No county official, department head or other county employee covered by this chapter shall participate in an appointment or employment process if a relative is an applicant under consideration.
B. 
No county official, department head or other county employee covered by this chapter shall influence or attempt to influence the employment decisions of another county official, department head or county employee covered by this chapter on behalf of a relative.
A. 
Receipt of gifts and gratuities prohibited. No official or employee may use his or her office to obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value for his or her private benefit or his or her relative or for an organization with which he or she is associated.
B. 
Financial and personal interest prohibited. An official or employee shall not engage in any business or transaction or act in regard to any financial interest, direct or indirect, which:
(1) 
Is incompatible with the proper discharge of his or her official duties for the benefit of the public;
(2) 
Is contrary to the provisions of this code; or
(3) 
May substantially impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of his or her official duties.
C. 
Incompatible employment. No employee or official shall engage in or accept any private employment or render any service for a private interest when such employment or service is incompatible with the proper discharge of his or her official duties or which may substantially impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of his or her official duties unless otherwise permitted by law.
D. 
Contracts with county. No official or county employee who in his or her capacity as such official or employee participates in the making of a contract in which such official 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 county unless otherwise permitted by law. Further, pursuant to § 946.13, Wis. Stats., an official or employee is prohibited from participating in the formation of a contract with Pierce County involving the receipts or disbursements of more than $15,000 in any year.
E. 
Financial interest in legislation. Any member of the County Board who has a financial interest in any proposed action before the County Board shall disclose the nature and extent of such interest to the County Clerk and the County Board prior to or during the initial discussion of such action and shall abstain from voting on or debating the matter and refrain from personal involvement in the matter. Any other official or employee who has a financial interest in any proposed action before the County Board and who participates in discussion with or gives an official opinion or recommendation to the County Board shall first disclose the nature and extent of such interest to the County Board.
F. 
Exceptions. The provisions of Subsection E are not meant to prevent an official from taking action on a matter that will affect the official as long as the following conditions are met:
(1) 
The official's action affects a whole class of similar interests;
(2) 
The class is significant in size when compared with the general population of the county; and
(3) 
The effect of the official's action on the official's private interests is neither significantly greater nor less than the effect upon the interests of other members of the class.
G. 
Disclosure of privileged and confidential information. An official or employee shall not knowingly disclose or permit the disclosure of privileged and confidential information to any person not lawfully authorized to receive such privileged and/or confidential information. An official or employee shall not use privileged or confidential information to advance his or her personal financial interest or that of his or her immediate relative.
A. 
Statutes incorporated by reference. The following sections of the Wisconsin statutes as amended are incorporated by reference and made a part of this Code of Ethics:
(1) 
Section 19.01 (Oaths and Bonds);
(2) 
Section 19.21 (Custody and Delivery of Official Property and Records);
(3) 
Sections 19.81 to 19.98 (Open Meetings of Governmental Bodies); and
(4) 
The mandatory sections of § 19.59 (Codes of Ethics for Local Government Officials, Employees and Candidates) and as they may be amended.
B. 
Violation of incorporated statutes. Noncompliance with the statutory provisions listed in Subsection A, and any amendments after enactment of this code, shall be considered a violation under this code.
A. 
Pursuant to § 19.59, Wis. Stats., there is created an Ethics Board (Board) consisting of five members who shall serve with compensation. The members of the Board of Ethics shall be residents of the county. No Board member shall be an elected county official or county employee. Further, no Board member shall be currently serving on any county committee or commission or board.
B. 
Each member shall be appointed by the County Board Chairman and subject to the confirmation of the County Board. Members of the Board shall be appointed to staggered three-year terms. If appointed to fill out another's unexpired term, the member so appointed may then be appointed for two full terms. No member shall serve more than two consecutive three-year terms. The Ethics Board shall elect its own Chairman and Vice Chairman. The County Corporation Counsel, except in instances where the ethical matter relates to the Corporation Counsel, shall furnish the Board whatever legal assistance which may be necessary. The Corporation Counsel staff shall provide needed staff assistance.
A. 
Rules of the Board. The Ethics Board shall adopt and develop written rules which shall be submitted to the County Board for approval. A copy of the rules shall be filed with the County Clerk.
B. 
Responsibilities and duties. The Ethics Board shall:
(1) 
Administer and enforce the provisions of this chapter.
(2) 
Investigate complaints properly made with the Board.
(3) 
Issue advisory opinions regarding the propriety of any matter to which an individual subject to this chapter is or may become a party.
C. 
Complaints. The Board shall accept from any person a verified written complaint which states the name of the officer or employee alleged to have committed a violation of this code and sets forth the material facts involved in the allegation. The Board shall forward a copy of the complaint to the subject of the complaint within 10 days of receipt of the written complaint. No action may be taken on any complaint which is filed more than one year after the violation of the Ethics Code is alleged to have occurred.
D. 
Investigations. Following the receipt of a verified complaint, the Ethics Board may make preliminary investigations with respect to alleged violation of this code. A preliminary investigation shall not be initiated unless the subject of the complaint is notified in writing. The notice shall state the exact nature and purpose of the investigation, the individual's specific action or activities to be investigated and a statement of such person's due process rights.
E. 
Hearings. If the Ethics Board, by a majority vote, finds that probable cause exists for believing the allegations of the complaint, the Ethics Board may issue an order setting a date for a hearing and/or make a recommendation for enforcement to the district attorney pursuant to § 19.59, Wis. Stats. If the Board elects to hold a hearing, the Ethics Board shall give the subject of the complaint at least 20 days' notice of the hearing date. Such hearings shall be conducted in accordance with the rules established by the Ethics Board in closed session, unless the subject of the complaint petitions for a hearing open to the public. The Ethics Board will conduct the hearing with the Chairman of the Board presiding.
F. 
Right to representation. During all stages of an investigation or proceeding conducted under this section, the subject of the complaint, or any person whose activities are under investigation, shall be entitled to be represented by counsel of his/her own choosing, at his or her own expense.
G. 
Due process. The subject of the complaint or his/her representative shall have an adequate opportunity to:
(1) 
Examine all documents and records to be used at the hearing under Subsection E at a reasonable time before the date of the hearing, as well as during the hearing;
(2) 
Present witnesses;
(3) 
Establish all pertinent facts and circumstances; and
(4) 
Question or refute any testimony or evidence, including the opportunity to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.
H. 
Power to subpoena. The Board shall have the power to compel the attendance of witnesses and to issue subpoenas granted other boards and commissions under § 885.01(3), Wis. Stats.
I. 
Vote of the Board. A majority vote of the Ethics Board shall be required for any action taken by the Ethics Board.
J. 
Recommendations and evidentiary standard. Within 30 days after the hearing is concluded, the Ethics Board, with Corporation Counsel's assistance, shall render a written decision containing the findings of fact and the conclusions concerning the propriety of the conduct of the officer or employee. If the recommendation is that a violation of the Ethics Code has occurred, the Ethics Board must be convinced by the preponderance of the evidence that such violation occurred.
A. 
Requests for advisory opinion. An advisory opinion may be requested by the individual or, in the case of an individual under consideration for appointment as a county official or employee, by the appointing officer or authority with the consent of the prospective appointee. County officials and employees shall be afforded an opportunity to appear before the Board and present facts at issue in the interpretation and administration of the Code of Ethics established by provisions in this chapter before an advisory opinion is issued. Requests for advisory opinions shall be made in writing.
B. 
Confidentiality of advisory opinions and proceedings. The Ethics Board shall issue written advisory opinions within 30 days of hearing any facts relevant to the issue. The hearing shall be closed and the written opinion kept confidential unless all parties, including the requester, the subject and the Ethics Board, consent in writing to the proceedings being made public.
A. 
If the Ethics Board finds that a violation of the Ethics Code has occurred, the Board may:
(1) 
Order the officer or employee to conform his or her conduct to the Ethics Code.
(2) 
Recommend to the County Board that the official or employee be censured, suspended or removed from office.
(3) 
Subject violators to a civil forfeiture of not more than $500 for each violation or, for intentional violators, a forfeiture of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 for each violation.
(4) 
Refer the matter to the district attorney for enforcement proceedings pursuant to the mandatory sections of § 19.59, Wis. Stats.
B. 
If the Ethics Board finds that no violation has occurred it shall issue a written decision within seven days of its determination.
[Amended 11-9-2004 by Ord. No. 04-15]
All records of the Board shall be open to public inspection at any time, except that the names of individuals and identifying matter which clearly discloses the identity of any individual shall be kept confidential, and copies of such records shall be altered to remove any such identifying information, except that no such alterations shall be made to disclosure statements.
No appointing authority, agent of an appointing authority or supervisor may initiate or administer, or threaten to initiate or administer, any retaliatory action against a county employee following and employee's disclosure of information related to the violation of an federal or state law, county ordinance, rule or regulations, the mismanagement or abuse of authority, a substantial waste of public funds or a danger to public health and safety. Nothing in this section restricts the right of the county as an employer to take appropriate disciplinary action against an employee who knowingly makes an untrue statement or discloses information the disclosure of which is specifically prohibited by federal or state law, rule or regulation.