Ethics and Elections Commission Wayne Barnett, Executive Director
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Use of City Position

The Ethics Code prohibit a Covered Individuals from using his or her position for anyone's private benefit, rather than primarily for the benefit of the City.

  1. Is it OK for me to hand out my private business card while I'm on my City job? What about giving my card to citizens who ask for it?

    When I'm working on the counter, I often see people who could use my services. And when I'm out in the field doing my City job, I am frequently approached by the public asking me if they might hire me to do similar work for them, privately.

    ANSWER: No, it is not ok for you to promote your private business while on your City job. Using your City job or City time to gain customers for your private business would be an improper use of your official position for private gain.

    Handing out your business cards could also imply to customers that the City is endorsing your private business, which is not a City purpose.

    A reminder: You cannot, under any circumstances, put your City identification on your private business card. This includes your City title, phone number, address, fax, pager, e-mail address, etc. You can, however, include your City experience on your business brochure, just like anyone can list work experience on a resume.

    If your outside business overlaps or conflicts with your City job, it is best to contact SEEC staff for advice on how to avoid prohibited conduct under the ethics law.

  2. A neighborhood organization has offered to hire me to provide services that are similar to what I do in my job. Is it ok for me to do the work for them on my own time?

    Answer: If you have been offered money to perform a service that you might otherwise provide in the course of your job, you must first ask your manager for a written determination that your department will not be providing this service. When you receive this determination, then you may go ahead and accept the offer.

    Employees cannot be privately paid to do work that they might otherwise be assigned to do. If you have received an offer to perform your regular City work for an outside organization, contact the SEEC for advice.

  3. Is it ok if I help my neighbor apply for a City contract or permit?

    Answer: The answer to this depends on the nature of your City job and the nature of the contract in question. The Ethics Code prohibits a Covered Individual from assisting any person in a City matter involving the Covered Individual's department. If you work in the department that is awarding the contract, you may not assist persons with the application. You may give your neighbor information that has been made public, and then step out of the process so as not to appear to give your neighbor an edge in the competition.

    If your job is to assist citizens or groups in applying for City funds or permits, you may provide your neighbor the same assistance that you normally and regularly provide to any other citizen. You should be neutral and unbiased in the assistance you provide, and you must not participate in awarding the grants or permits.

    In any case, you must not attempt to influence a City decision to contract with -- or the conduct of any city business with a person in which any of the following has a financial interest:
  1. the Covered Individual;
  2. an immediate family member of the Covered Individual;
  3. an individual residing with the Covered Individual;
  4. a person the Covered Individual serves as an officer, director, trustee, partner or employee;
  5. a person with which the Covered Individual is seeking or has an arrangement concerning future employment.

It is not a violation of this section of the Code for a City contractor to attempt to obtain other contracts with the City.

For assistance, contact the SEEC.

Last updated April 13, 2011.

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