Ethics and Elections Commission Wayne Barnett, Executive Director
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Information for Members of
Advisory Boards and Commissions

  1. Are members of advisory boards subject to the Ethics Code in the same way City employees are? They dont make decisions, but only give advice to decision-makers.

    Answer: The Ethics Code sets high ethical standards for members of advisory boards and commissions, whose advice may have a major impact on City policies.

    Members of advisory committees are required to disqualify themselves from participating in official matters in which they have a financial interest, direct or indirect, personally or through an immediate family member. And the Code requires full disclosure if the member engages or has engaged in an activity or transaction that would appear to a reasonable person to impair the members independence of judgment.

    To satisfy the latter requirement, members must fully disclose the facts on the record of the committee meeting, file a copy with the committee staff contact and with the SEEC using this Disclosure Form, downloadable in PDF version or Microsoft Word version, or contact us for assistance.

    The Code excludes "public corporations and ad hoc advisory committees" from the jurisdiction of the Ethics Code. "Ad hoc advisory committees" are defined as 1) any advisory committee expressly designated by ordinance as "ad hoc"; or 2) any advisory committee created by means other then by federal or state law, or City ordinance, including by resolution, executive order, or other similar action." Members of ad hoc committees should check with their City staff to determine their committees' ethical standards.

  2. How do members of advisory commissions know whether to disqualify themselves from discussions or decisions, or merely disclose their potential interest in a matter before the board?

    Answer: Members must disqualify themselves from discussion and voting if they have a financial interest, even indirectly, in the matter before their committee. If the members interests are not financial, but if they engage or have engaged in any transaction or activity which would appear to be in conflict with or incompatible with their duties or would appear to impair their judgment, then they must disclose the circumstances publicly to their committee.

    Members who are uncertain what to do, are encouraged to contact the Executive Director for guidance, or take the conservative route of recusal.

  3. What penalties might an advisory committee member face?

    Answer: The penalties vary depending on what part of the Code the member has violated.

    The Commission can issue a fine of up to $1,000 to members of a voluntary advisory committee who fail to disqualify themselves from matters in which they or a member of their immediate family has a financial interest. In the case of failure to disclose apparent impaired judgment in the performance of advisory committee duties, the Commission may impose a monetary fine of up to $250.

    The Commission may impose a fine of up to $5,000 if the member violates other prohibitions of the Ethics Code, including improper use of official position for private gain, improper use of City resources, accepting or soliciting items of value, and use or disclosure of privileged information for other than a City purpose.

    The Commission may also require reimbursement of damages and costs, and may recommend censure or removal from the committee as well as rescindment or reconsideration of any finding or recommendation that has been sustantially influenced by the violation.

For more information on the Ethics Code for Advisory Committee members,
see the Ethics Code, SMC 4.16.070 and SMC 4.16.100, download a brochure, or contact the SEEC.

Last updated April 8, 2011.

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