Chapter 2.26


2.26.010    Declaration of policy.

2.26.020    Definitions.

2.26.030    Use of public property.

2.26.040    Obligations to citizens.

2.26.050    Code of ethics.

2.26.060    Confidential information – Disclosure prohibited.

2.26.070    Adoption of RCW by reference – Exceptions.

2.26.080    Penalties.

2.26.090    Ethics hearing officer – Position created, powers and duties.

2.26.091    Hearings.

2.26.092    Recommendations of the ethics hearing officer.

2.26.100    Reporting violations – False statements.

2.26.010 Declaration of policy.

The proper operation of democratic government requires that elected and appointed public officers and employees be independent, impartial, and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made in the proper channels of the government structure; that public office not be used for personal gain; and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government. Accordingly, it is the purpose of this chapter to establish ethical standards of conduct for all officers and employees of the city, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid; to set forth those acts that are incompatible with such standards; to require disclosure by such officers and employees of private financial or other interests in matters affecting the city; and to provide effective means for enforcement thereof. This chapter shall not be construed so as to impair the ability of city officers and employees to participate in ceremonial, representational, or informational functions in the pursuit of their official duties.

This chapter shall be construed in favor of protecting the public’s interest in full disclosure of conflicts of interest and promoting ethical standards of conduct for city officers and employees. It shall also be interpreted and applied in a manner consistent with the maxim that “de minimis non curat lex” and to allow inadvertent minor violations to be corrected and cured without full hearing in conformance with the spirit and purpose of this code. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.020 Definitions.

“Business entity” means any corporation, general or limited partnership, sole proprietorship (including a private consultant operation), joint venture, unincorporated association or firm, institution, trust, foundation, or other organization, whether or not organized for profit.

“City agency” means every department, office, commission, or committee of the city, or any subdivision thereof, but excludes public corporations and ad hoc advisory committees.

“City officer or employee” means any person holding a position by election, appointment, or employment in the service of the city or city agency whether paid or unpaid.

“Compensation” means anything of economic value, however designated, which is paid, loaned, advanced, granted, given or transferred for or in consideration of personal services to any person.

“Gift” means anything of economic value in excess of $20.00, regardless of the form, without adequate and lawful considerations; provided, it does not include the solicitation, acceptance, or receipts of political campaign contributions regulated in accordance with provisions of federal, state or local laws governing campaign finances.

“Immediate family” includes spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, sisters, brothers, and any person related by blood to the city official and living in the same household as the city official.

“Moral turpitude” includes, but is not limited to: acts of dishonesty, theft, robbery, blackmail, extortion, fraud, murder, manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping or any other act that would shock the public conscience.

“Official act or action” means any legislative, administrative, appointive or discretionary act of any city officer or employee of the city.

“Person” means any individual, association, corporation, or other legal entity.

“Remote interest” means:

(a) That of a nonsalaried officer of a nonprofit corporation;

(b) That of an employee or agent of a contracting party where the compensation of such employee or agent consists entirely of fixed wages or salary;

(c) That of a landlord or tenant of a contracting party;

(d) That of a holder of less than one percent of the shares of a corporation or cooperative which is a contracting party. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.030 Use of public property.

No official or employee shall request or permit the use of city 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 city policy for the use of such official or employee in the conduct of official business. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.040 Obligations to citizens.

No official or employee shall grant, nor shall any citizen attempt to obtain, any special consideration, treatment or advantage beyond that which is available to every other citizen. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.050 Code of ethics.

The purpose of the code of ethics is to assist city officials and employees to establish guidelines to govern their own conduct. The code is also intended to help develop traditions of responsible public service. No official or employee shall engage in any act which is in conflict with the performance of his official duties. An official or employee shall be deemed to have conflict of interest if he:

(1) Receives or has any financial interest in any sale to or by the city of any service or property when such financial interest was received with the prior knowledge that the city intended to purchase such property or obtain such service;

(2) Accepts or seeks for others any service, information or thing of value on more favorable terms than those granted to the public generally, from any person, firm or corporation having dealings with the city, except such service, information or thing of value would influence the vote, action, or judgment of the officer or employee, or be considered a reward for action or inaction. The value of gifts given to an official’s or employee’s family member or guest shall be attributed to the official or employee for the purpose of determining whether the limit has been exceeded, unless an independent business, family or social relationship exists between the donor and the family member or guest;

(3) Accepts any gift or favor from any person, firm or corporation having any dealings with the city if he knows or has reason to know that it was intended to obtain special consideration;

(4) Influences the selection of or the conduct of business with a corporation having any dealings with the city if he knows or has reason to know that it was intended to obtain special consideration;

(5) Is an employee, officer, partner, director or consultant of any corporation, firm or person having business with the city, unless he has disclosed such relationship as provided by this chapter;

(6) Engages in or accepts private employment or renders services for private industry when such employment or service is incompatible with the proper discharge of his official duties or would impair his independence of judgment or action in the performance of his official duties;

(7) Appears in behalf of a private interest before any regulatory governmental agency, or represents a private interest in any action or proceeding against the interest of the city in any litigation to which the city is a party, unless he has a personal interest and this personal interest has been disclosed to the regulatory governmental agency. A city councilman may appear before regulatory governmental agencies on behalf of constituents in the course of his duties as a representative of the electorate or in the performance of public or civic obligations; however, no official or employee shall accept a retainer or compensation that is contingent upon a specific action by a city agency;

(8) Directly or indirectly possess a substantial or controlling interest in any business entity which conducts business or contracts with the city, or in the sale of real estate, materials, supplies or services to the city, without disclosing such interest as provided by this chapter. An interest is not a substantial interest if such interest does not exceed one-tenth of one percent of the outstanding securities of the business concern; or, if the interest is an unincorporated business concern, one percent of the net worth of such concern; or the financial interest of a corporation, person or firm does not exceed five percent of the net worth of the employee and his household relatives;

(9) As a city councilman has a personal, financial or property involvement or has familial ties to the third degree to any participant, in any legislation or other matters coming before the council wherein the councilman or participant may obtain personal gain or advantage, and fails to disclose such an interest openly on the records of the city council. The council member shall make public any conflict of interest the member has with respect to any issue under consideration by the council. The council member shall not participate in discussions of the subject and shall not vote on it. If the council member has only a casual association with the subject or parties, the member must state the relationship and then may fully participate. Any other official or employee who has a financial or other private interest, and who participates in discussion with or gives an official opinion to the city council, and fails to disclose on the records of the city council the nature and extent of such interest is in violation of this chapter;

(10) Violates any ordinance or resolution of the city;

(11) Violates the confidentiality of his position;

(12) Makes any false statement or representation of any public record or document in a willful disregard of the truth of such statement or representation;

(13) Is convicted of a crime of moral turpitude as defined in this chapter. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.060 Confidential information – Disclosure prohibited.

No public official or public employee shall, while holding such office or employment, and for a period of one year after leaving city employment, disclose or use any confidential or privileged information gained by reason of his or her official position for a purpose which is for other than a city purpose; provided, that nothing shall prohibit the disclosure or use of information which is a matter of public knowledge, or which is available to the public on request. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.070 Adoption of RCW by reference – Exceptions.

RCW 42.23.030 and 42.23.040 as the same exist now or may be hereafter amended are hereby adopted by reference and the provisions of these statutes shall apply to the conduct of all city officials. The exceptions and remote interests as set forth in these statutes shall be exceptions to the provisions of CMC 2.26.050. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.080 Penalties.

(1) Any officer or employee who knowingly and willfully violates the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be punished by imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both such imprisonment and fine.

(2) In addition to all other penalties, civil or criminal, the violation by any officer of the provisions of this chapter may be grounds for the following:

(a) Any employee whose conduct is determined by the city to be in violation of this chapter may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

(b) Any appointed official who violates or fails to comply with any provisions of this chapter may be discharged by the appointing authority.

(c) Any elected official who violates or fails to comply with any provisions of this chapter may forfeit his or her elected office.

(3) Any contract or transaction which is the subject of an official act or action of the city in which there is an interest prohibited by this chapter or which involves the violation of a provision of this chapter shall be voidable at the option of the city. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.090 Ethics hearing officer – Position created, powers and duties.

(1) There is hereby created the office of ethics hearing officer, who shall be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. The ethics hearing officer shall be an attorney not holding any other elective office with the city. The ethics hearing officer may be removed from office with or without cause by the mayor with the concurrence of the city council. The compensation of the ethics hearing officer, and other terms and conditions of the engagement, shall be set forth in a written contract.

(2) The ethics hearing officer shall have the following powers and duties:

(a) The ethics hearing officer shall be a quasi-judicial fact finder.

(b) The ethics hearing officer shall perform the following duties:

(i) Upon the filing of a complaint against a nonelected official or employee of the city, accompanied by proof that the said written complaint has been served upon the party who is alleged to be in violation, the ethics hearing officer shall investigate said complaint and, if the hearing officer makes a determination that the complaint is legally sufficient and that it is supported by probable cause, conduct a hearing and issue findings and a recommendation.

(ii) Determinations of legal sufficiency and probable cause shall be made within 30 days after receipt of any complaint. Any complaint which the hearing officer determines is not legally sufficient or not supported by probable cause shall be dismissed.

(iii) Proceedings before the ethics hearing officer shall be recorded and proper minutes of all meetings and actions shall be kept. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.091 Hearings.

The ethics hearing officer shall make no findings and recommendation without first conducting a hearing, which shall be held within 30 days after the determination of legal sufficiency and probable cause; provided, any matter which the ethics hearing officer determines would be deemed minor or inadvertent even if the allegations were proven may be summarily dismissed without further proceedings, findings of legal sufficiency and probable cause noted in the minutes of the proceedings, if the officer or employee stipulates in writing to appropriate corrective measures to ensure that such conduct will not continue to reoccur. All hearings shall be closed to the public unless the officer or employee whose conduct is the subject of the hearing requests that it be a public hearing. All testimony before the ethics hearing officer shall be sworn on oath or affirmation, subject to the laws of perjury of the state of Washington. Any party or witness in the proceeding before the ethics hearing officer shall have the right to be represented by counsel. Within 20 days after the conclusion of the hearing, the ethics hearing officer shall render written findings of fact and recommendations. Copies of the same shall be delivered to the party who is the subject of the hearing, complainant, the mayor, and the city council. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.092 Recommendations of the ethics hearing officer.

(1) If the ethics hearing officer determines that a city employee has violated the provisions of this code, the ethics hearing officer may recommend to the mayor that the employee be subject to disciplinary action. In addition to any other penalty otherwise provided by law, a violation shall be cause for suspension, discharge or removal from office, or such other disciplinary action as may, by the appropriate city authority, be deemed necessary and proper, and consistent with the city personnel policy and/or collective bargaining agreement, and/or state law. A written report of the disciplinary action taken as a result of the ethics hearing officer’s recommendation shall be made by the appropriate city authority to the ethics hearing officer within 14 days after receipt of the ethics hearing officer’s recommendation.

(2) This section shall not derogate from employee rights under any collective bargaining agreement or city personnel policy rules promulgated thereunder.

(3) If the ethics hearing officer determines the mayor or a city council member has violated a provision of the code of ethics, he shall issue a “letter of censure.”

(4) If the ethics hearing officer determines any person has committed an act of moral turpitude and violated the provisions of this chapter, he may refer the matter to the prosecuting authority for action. The prosecuting authority in such matter shall not be the city attorney, but rather must be a special prosecutor appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. If the ethics hearing officer recommends criminal prosecution of any elected officer, and prosecuting authority has not previously been appointed and confirmed, the prosecuting authority shall be appointed by the Asotin County prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting authority shall not have authority to prosecute any matters except those referred by the ethics hearing officer pursuant to this chapter.

(5) If the offending person is an elected official of the city of Clarkston, and the ethics hearing officer has issued a “letter of censure” pursuant to subsection (3) of this section, and has determined that the violation was an act of moral turpitude, the matter may be brought before the superior court to have that elected official’s office forfeited.

(6) Any party seeking judicial review of a decision made pursuant to this chapter may petition the superior court for Asotin County within 30 days of the ethics hearing officer’s decision. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]

2.26.100 Reporting violations – False statements.

Any resident of the city of Clarkston, or employee or officer of the city, may initiate a complaint against any official or employee of the city by filing with the ethics hearing officer a written complaint supported by sworn declaration and may also include any other documentary proof the complainant may choose to include. Filing said complaint with the ethics hearing officer shall be done by delivering or causing to be delivered to staff at City Hall the said complaint in a sealed envelope addressed to the ethics hearing officer. The city will cause a true and correct copy of the complaint to be delivered to the party about whom the complaint is made.

If the ethics hearing officer, after review and hearing, determines that the complaint is false and filed in bad faith, the ethics hearing officer shall award reasonable attorney fees and costs against the complainant and in favor of the officer or employee who was wrongfully complained against. [Ord. 1543 § 1, 2015.]