NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A7669A
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the general municipal law, in relation
to conflicts of interest of municipal officers and employees, codes of
ethics and boards of ethics; to amend chapter 946 of the laws of 1964
amending the general municipal law and other laws relating to conflicts
of interest of municipal officers and employees, in relation to permit-
ting local codes of ethics to prohibit activities expressly permitted by
article 18 of the general municipal law
To strengthen the current conflict of interest and ethics laws covering
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section one of this bill amends subdivision 3 of section 800 of the
General Municipal Law to deem a municipal officer or employee to have an
"interest" in a contract between the municipality which he or she serves
and a business entity which is affiliated with his or her spouse.
Section two of this bill amends section 801 of the General Municipal Law
to prohibit a municipal officer or employee whose service to a munici-
pality includes rendition of professional services requiring admission
to the practice of law: (a) from having an interest in any contract for
rendition of legal services to the municipality unless certain require-
ments are met; and (b) from compensating any person or organization from
his or her personal resources to render legal services to the munici-
Section three of this bill amends paragraphs b and j of subdivision 1 of
section 802 of the General Municipal Law to: (a) include spousal employ-
ment within the "duties and remuneration" exception to the prohibition
on interests in contracts; and (b) expand the applicability of the
"rural municipalities" exception to that prohibition.
Section four of this bill amends paragraph a of subdivision 2 of section
802 to include spousal stockholdings in the "de minimis stockholding"
exception to the prohibition on interests in contracts in section 801.
Section five of this bill amends the section heading of section 805-a of
the General Municipal Law, and adds new subdivisions 1-a and 1-b to that
section to: (a) prohibit a municipal officer or employee from acting in
most circumstances in relation to matters requiring the exercise of
discretion when the action could confer a benefit on himself or herself,
a relative, or a private organization in which he or she is deemed to
have an interest; (b) require public disclosure of the circumstances
warranting recusal; and (c) generally prohibit a municipal officer or
employee from using or permitting the use of municipal property or
resources for personal or private purposes.
Section six of this bill amends the section heading of section 806 of
the General Municipal Law.
Section seven of this bill amends paragraph (a) of subdivision 1 of
section 806 of the General Municipal Law to: (a) require improvement
districts governed by article 13 of the Town Law to adopt a code of
ethics; (b) require municipal codes of ethics to provide standards of
conduct in relation to nepotism; (c) allow such codes to prohibit
contracts or conduct that is either expressly or by implication permit-
ted by section 802 or section 805a of the General Municipal Law; and (d)
require the governing body of a municipality that adopts a code of
ethics to review the code biennially and, when deemed necessary, to
update its code of ethics.
Section eight of this bill amends subdivision 2 of section 806 of the
General Municipal Law to require: (a) a code of ethics or amendment
thereto to be distributed promptly after adoption to every officer or
employee of a municipality; (b) a complete and current copy of a munici-
pality's code of ethics to be posted on the municipality's website (if
any), and distributed to every officer and employee of the municipality
promptly following such person's election or appointment and at least
once every five years; and (c) every municipal officer or employee who
receives a code of ethics or amendment thereto to acknowledge promptly
in writing that he or she has received and read it, and to file the
acknowledgment with the clerk or secretary of the municipality.
Sections nine of this bill amends section 806 of the General Municipal
Law by adding a new Subdivision 3 to require the clerk of each munici-
pality to retain as a record subject to public inspection a copy of the
municipality's or political subdivision's code of ethics or any amend-
ments thereto, a statement that the municipality or political subdivi-
sion has established a board of ethics and a copy of the form of annual
statement of financial disclosure.
Section ten is Intentionally Omitted.
Section eleven of this bill amends section 808 of the General Municipal
Law to: (a) require every (i) county, (ii) city, town and village having
a population of 50,000 or more, and (iii) BOCES to have a board of
ethics; (b) authorize all other municipalities to establish their own
boards of ethics or to participate in a cooperative board of ethics; (c)
provide generally that where a municipality, other than a school
district, has not exercised the option to establish its own board of
ethics or to participate in a cooperative board of ethics, the county
board of ethics would serve as the municipality's board of ethics; (d)
provide generally that where a school district has not exercised the
option to establish its own board of ethics or to participate in a coop-
erative board of ethics, the BOCES board of ethics would serve as the
school district's board of ethics; (e) enhance the independence of
boards of ethics by requiring local governments to establish a term of
office for the members of the board; (f) require training for members of
boards of ethics on the law relating to conflicts of interest and
ethics; (g) clarify that a municipality's board of ethics has responsi-
bility for collecting, reviewing and enforcing requirements related to
annual financial disclosure statements; (h) authorize boards of ethics
to investigate complaints made by citizens and to impose civil penalties
for violations of the conflicts of interest law or the code of ethics;
and (i) authorize boards of ethics to conduct ethics training for local
officers and employees. The amendments to this section shall not apply
to a city having a population of one million or more or to a county,
school district, or other public agency or facility therein.
Section twelve of this bill amends subdivision 9 of section 810 of the
General Municipal Law to define the term "appropriate body" as meaning
the board of ethics of a political subdivision or municipality.
Section thirteen of this bill amends section 13 of chapter 946 of the
laws of 1964 to permit local codes of ethics to be more stringent than
article 18 of the General Municipal Law.
Section fourteen of this bill requires the governing board of any muni-
cipality which on the effective date of this act has a board of ethics,
but has not established a term of office for the members of such board,
to establish a term of office for the members of such board to commence
on a date no later than the first day of the municipality's fiscal year
commencing in 2015, and provides that on such date the positions on such
board of ethics shall be deemed vacant.
Section fifteen of this bill requires any person serving as a member of
a local board of ethics on the effective date of this act to successful-
ly complete the training course required by this act within one year of
the effective date of this act.
Section sixteen of this bill provides that this act shall take effect on
the first of January next succeeding the date on which it shall have
become a law; provided, however that paragraph (d) of subdivision 1 of
section 808 of the General Municipal Law, as added by section eleven of
this act, shall take effect January 1, 2018.
At a time when public integrity and ethics are at the forefront of
concern in the State, it is appropriate to recommit to efforts to ensure
that local government officials adhere to high standards of conduct.
Indeed, many leading authorities, bar associations, and public interest
groups have long called for amendments to the statewide law governing
conflicts of interest on the part of municipal officials. The current
statute governing local officials' conduct, General Municipal Law Arti-
cle 18, was enacted in 1964 and establishes statewide rules, applicable
outside of the City of New York, relating to interests in contracts,
gifts, the disclosure and use of confidential information, and appear-
ances before municipal agencies. It also requires most municipalities to
supplement the statewide rules through the adoption of a code of ethics
setting forth standards of conduct for their officers and employees.
Despite the high aspirations for those laws, the Office of the State
Comptroller (OSC) has identified through its advisory opinion function
ways in which the law can be improved. Through its audits and surveys of
local governments, OSC has also found that knowledge and understanding
and, consequently, compliance with conflict of interest and ethics
requirements may not be as high as desired. This legislation would
address these concerns by strengthening current law in a number of ways.
For example, this legislation would prohibit municipal officers and
employees from acting in relation to certain matters in which they or a
relative have an interest, expand the issues required to be addressed in
local codes of ethics to include nepotism, and enlarge the role of local
boards of ethics by authorizing them to investigate taxpayer complaints,
requiring them to oversee and enforce local annual financial disclosure
filing requirements, and permitting them to provide training to munici-
pal officers and employees on conflicts of interest and ethics. The
legislation would also address the circumstances under which a municipal
attorney's law firm could render legal services to the municipality for
which he or she serves; however, these provisions are not intended to
prohibit a municipal attorney from compensating a person or organization
for providing services to the municipal attorney to assist in the
performance of his or her official duties, such as preparing a memoran-
dum of law for use by the municipal attorney in advising other municipal
officials. The cumulative effect of these changes would be to enhance
local government officials' capacity to do their work with the highest
degree of integrity and ethics.
The Comptroller urges passage of this legislation.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
A.6596-A (Third Reading Calendar) of 2013-14
S. 7539 and A. 10512 of 2011-2012
S. 7400-A (Passed Senate) and A. 10682-A of 2009-2010
To be determined.
This act shall take effect on the first of January next succeeding the
date on which it shall have become a law; provided, however that the
amendments to paragraph (d) of subdivision 1 of section 808 of the
General Municipal Law made by section eleven of this act shall take
effect January 1, 2018.