A GUIDE TO THE ETHICS LAW
Queen Anneís County Ethics Commission
This Guide highlights and explains the basics of the Queen Anne's County's Ethics Law. It is a general summery of the law and is not to be read as a substitute for the law itself.
As required by the ethics law of the State of Maryland, the County's ethics law is similar to the ethics law of the State.
The ethics law of Queens
Anne's County is contained in Title 8 of the Code of Public Local Laws
of Queen Anne's County.
What is the purpose of the Queen Anne's County Ethics Law?
Queen Anne's County recognizes that our representative form of government depends in large measure on the faith and trust the people place in their public officials and employees.
Citizens have a right to be assured of the impartiality and independent judgment of public officials and employees. Further, they should be confident that the private financial interests of employees and officials do not conflict with the public interest that they have a duty to advance.
The trust of citizens is eroded when the conduct of County business is, or even appears to be, subject to improper influences, rather than determined solely by what is in the best interests of the people.
Duly adopted ethical rules safeguard the public's faith and trust in its government. Accordingly, to assure residents of the integrity of their County government, the Queen Anne's County Ethics Law establishes ethical standards and financial disclosure requirements for County officials and employees, board and commission members, as well as disclosure requirements for lobbyists.
What are the main provisions of the Ethics Law?
The Ethics Law establishes:
The Ethics Law applies to Queen Anne's County elected and appointed officials, employees, members of County Boards and Commissions, and lobbyists.
The Ethics Law does not apply to certain officials, principally judicial and law enforcement personnel, who are subject to the Maryland Public Ethics Law.
Who administers the Ethics Law?
The County Commissioners have appointed an Ethics Commission consisting of five members to administer the Ethics Law.
County employees and officials will not:
An official or employee will not:
b) is subject to regulation by the official's or employee's agency.
The following gifts are generally allowed:
a) meals and beverages
not to exceed $25.00 in value (subject to the cumulative $100. limit)
The Commission has the authority
to exempt gifts which the Commission determines are not detrimental to
impartial conduct and of a purely personal and private nature.
Candidates for elected office and certain County officials and employees must file with the Ethics Commission a financial disclosure statement upon acceptance of their appointment and annually no later than January 31st following each year in which they held office or were employed.
The financial disclosure statement asks for certain information with respect to:
A lobbyist is defined by the Ethics Law as a person who communicates with any County official or employee for the purpose of influencing any executive or legislative action and who:
In addition, within 31 days after the close of each calendar year, a lobbyist must file an annual activity report with the Ethics Commission providing information about entertainment and gifts to County officials, employees, and their spouses or children.
Lobbying registrations and
reports will be maintained by the Commission as public records available
for public inspection.
Advisory opinions as to the
application of the Ethics Law may be requested. The opinions (with the
identity of the requester redacted) will be maintained as public records.
Who can file a complaint related to the Ethics Law?
Any person, including the Commission on its own motion, may file an ethics complaint with the Ethics Commission.
What should be in a complaint?
Complaints must be in writing and:
How is a complaint handled?
Once the Commission receives a complaint, it will be recorded in a confidential log, not subject to public access.
If the complaint is deemed plainly frivolous or if the facts alleged do not indicate a violation of the Ethics Law, the Commission will dismiss the complaint. Otherwise, the Commission will conduct an investigation into the allegations of the complaint or refer the complaint to the County Attorney, State's Attorney, or other legal counsel for investigation.
Based on the investigation, the Commission may decide to:
What happens when a hearing is held on a complaint?
A hearing is conducted in a confidential manner, unless such confidentiality is waived by the respondent. The respondent may be represented by counsel. The Commission may issue subpoenas to compel attendance and testimony of witness and to produce books, papers, records, documents or other tangible objects.
The Commissionís decision resulting from the hearing shall include written findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations. The Commissionís decisions will be maintained by the Ethics Commission as public records and will be edited to protect personally identifiable information, as the Commission finds appropriate. If a violation is found, the Commission may take and/or recommend enforcement action.
The respondent may request
judicial review of the final order of the Commission, in accordance with
the Maryland rules of procedure. Any final order will be stayed automatically
until the time for requesting judicial review has expired. If a request
for judicial review is filed, the final order of the Commission will be
stayed until the reviewing court decides the final disposition of the case.
Any action taken by the Ethics
Commission in connection with a complaint will be conducted in a confidential
manner. Following the filing of a complaint and until the matter is referred
for prosecution or a finding of a violation has been made, the proceedings
of the Ethics Commission in connection with the complaint shall be conducted
in a confidential manner, unless such confidentiality is waived by the
A County official or employee found to have violated the Ethics Law may be subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action as prescribed in the law.
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