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Family Members

The Ethics Code prohibits City employees from participating in any matter in which a family member (or someone in the household) has a financial interest. This means that the employee, official, or other Covered Individual cannot perform any duties or make any recommendations that might have an impact on a family member's livelihood.

"Immediate family" is defined in the Code as "a spouse or domestic partner, child, child of a spouse or domestic partner, sibling, sibling of a domestic partner, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, a person for whom the Covered Individual is a legal guardian, or a person claimed as a dependent on the Covered Individual's most recently filed federal income tax return."

Here are some common questions about working with family members:

  1. I've been assigned out of class for a day to cover for my supervisor. My son is in my crew. I won't really have responsibilities, so isn't it okay if I take the assignment?

    Answer: No. Even for a short period, you cannot be in a position to make a difference in your son's job.

    Whether you exercise them or not, by definition the out-of-class assignment puts you in a position with responsibility and authority.

    You must call your management's attention to the inappropriate assignment, to avoid a violation of the Ethics Code.


  2. A lot of people in my department work with their family members. This doesn't seem right. Is it?

    Answer: Working side by side with family members or housemates is not prohibited by the Ethics Code. It becomes a problem under the Code if one is made lead or supervisor over another family member, even for a temporary period.

    This is not to say that the situation does not demand special attention from managers. When family members work side by side, managers must be certain that the relationship does not interfere with work, just as they must do with other potential distractions or disruptions.


  3. I have been assigned to supervise my cousin. "Cousin" is not included in the definition of "immediate family," so is it ok if I supervise him?

    Answer: If the relative is not an "immediate family" member, you need to disclose your relationship to your department head and the SEEC Executive Director before accepting the assignment. This gives your management an opportunity to determine if the relationship causes any problems in your workplace.

    The Ethics Code prohibits an employee from performing any official duties when it could appear to a reasonable person that the individual's judgment is impaired because of a personal or business relationship not covered under SMC 4.16.070 1.a or b, or a transaction or activity engaged in by the Covered Individual.

    If you are already participating in work that would raise concerns, fill out the disclosure form now, before participating in any more activities, to get the facts on the record. The Ethics Code says that it is an "affirmative defense" if the individual has disclosed the relationship, transaction, or activity prior to the official act, and says that if one is charged with a violation of this provision, the burden of proof is on the individual to show that a proper notification was made.

    So if you are assigned to participate in any work in which your cousin has a financial interest, use this disclosure form before you accept the assignment. See the FAQ on Appearances and on Financial Interests for more information.


  4. If I won't be the supervisor, is it ok for me to be on the selection committee when my relative is an applicant?

    Answer: The same regulations apply whether you are supervising, overseeing as a lead, or participating in any other work duties in which a relative (or friend) has a financial interest.

    You cannot be on the selection committee if someone in your "immediate family" is an applicant, and you must disclose in writing if anyone with whom you have other relationships, activities, or transactions has a financial interest in the work.


  5. One of my co-workers is married to one of our top managers, who is in our chain of command. Is that okay?

    Answer: The manager cannot participate in matters in which their spouse has a financial interest, so while the manager may be “in your chain of command,” they must be excluded from decisions involving their spouse’s job. If you believe that the manager is participating in matters involving their spouse, please raise the issue with your department’s management, or contact the SEEC to discuss the situation.


  6. My supervisor is a part owner of a company that is party to a contract I've been assigned to work on. I've been told not to talk with her about my work on that contract, but to talk to another supervisor if I have questions or reports to make. Is that enough?

    Answer: No, not in this case. The Ethics Code, in SMC 4.16.070 (5)(a), prohibits a Covered Individual from holding or acquiring an interest--including through a member of his or her immediate family--in any contract made under the Covered Individual's supervision, or made by someone under their supervision. This means that work on this contract must be assigned to someone who isn’t in your supervisor’s chain of command.

For the Ethics Code regarding family members, see
SMC 4.16.070(1)(a) and (c), (2)(d), and (5)(a)
or contact the SEEC for advice.



Last updated May 11, 2011.

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