Ethics Matters News

<P>Ethics Matters is finding that it needs to watch all County ethics-related legislation carefully. Our most recent concern is an ill-considered amendment to the Human Resources Code regarding conflicts of interest and outside employment. </P>
<P>This amendment would give an employee’s appointing authority the power to determine whether the employee’s outside employment conflicts with his/her County service. But determining employment conflicts of interest is, according to the QAC Code, the power and duty of the Ethics Commission. This is as it should be. Decisions regarding an employee’s conflicts of interest should not be made by the employee’s boss, but by an independent Ethics Commission that has no stake in the decision and is guided by the principles and precedents of the Ethics Code. </P>
<P>This amendment is not the first time there has been troublesome legislation proposed or enacted regarding conflicts of interest and outside employment. </P>
<P>1. The Ethics Code, proposed by the County Commissioners in May 2005, completely eliminated the prohibition against employees “olding an outside employment or contractual relationship that would affect or reasonably appear to affect their impartiality or independence of judgment.” This provision had been in the old 1984 code and was in the code proposed by the Ethics Commission. It is required by the State of Maryland. The State Ethics Commission made the County put this provision back into the QAC Ethics Code. </P>
<P>2. In the Amended Ethics Code passed November 2005, the Ethics Commission was given the power to exempt part-time officials and employees, whose outside employment did not create a conflict of interest, from having to comply with any provision of the Ethics Code (such as limitations on gifts, prohibitions of ownership conflicts, required financial disclosure). Ethics Matters believes that the State Ethics Commission will have problems with such sweeping and easily obtained exemptions. </P>
<P>3. Now, there is the proposed amendment to the Human Resources Code (discussed above) that gives an employee’s appointing authority (as opposed to the Ethics Commission) the power to determine whether there is a conflict of interest resulting from the employee’s outside employment. </P>
<P>February 21, 2006</P>
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Posted on 21 Feb 2006 by admin
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