The City of Takoma Park Public Ethics Ordinance calls for the creation of an Ethics Commission to administer the Ethics chapter of the Takoma Park Code and ensure that public officials and employees perform their duties with only the best interests of the City and its residents in mind.
The Ordinance states, in 3.04.020:
"1) Officials, employees, and representatives of the City will maintain the highest standards of political and professional responsibility and maintain the highest respect for the interests of the citizens and for the City itself.
2) Representative government depends upon the citizens having the highest trust in their public officials. The trust, necessary to our system of government, is dangerously eroded not only by improper conduct by employees and officials of government but by the appearance of improper conduct, as well.
3) In order to maintain the fact and appearance of high standards of conduct, it is necessary to have clearly articulated standards of conduct,a procedure for resolving questions that may arise concerning the propriety of specific acts, and a forum for receipt and review of complaints and questions, whether raised by concerned citizens, employees or those doing business with the City.
4) The citizens have a right to expect that all decisions made in the name of the government of Takoma Park will be made for the general welfare of the citizens of Takoma Park, rather than for the private gain or personal motives of the official or employee making the decision.
5) Employees and officials of government have a right to know that the government clearly articulates the standards of conduct by which their actions will be measured.
6) Employees and officials of government have a right to expect that their personal lives, choices, associations, and those of their families will not unduly or unnecessarily be burdened because of their choice to serve the City.
7) No restriction placed upon the employees or officials of Takoma Park can be made without cost to the City, whether by discouraging otherwise qualified persons from serving government, or by discouraging vendors or other businesses from trading with the City, or by placing administrative burdens upon the City and those with which it conducts business.
8) Full and timely disclosure of information and private activities that could affect the nature of public decisions allows the public to be aware of real or actual conflicts and make its own judgments about such conflicts."
The Public Ethics Ordinance sets forth the following responsibilities of the Ethics Commission:
1. To devise, and receive and maintain all forms generated by the Ethics Ordinance;
2. To provide advisory opinions to persons subject to the Ordinance;
3. To hear and decide any inquiry or complaint regarding an alleged violation of the Ethics Ordinance;
4. To conduct a public information program regarding the purposes and applications of the Ordinance;
5. To recommend legislative changes and improvements to the Ordinance;
6. To promulgate regulations to accompany the Ordinance; and
7. To certify annually to the State Ethics Commission that the City is in compliance with the requirements for elected officials of State Government Article, Title 15, Subtitle 8, of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
The Ethics Commission may have up to seven appointed members. It currently has six members and one vacancy. Members are appointed by the City Council. Residency is required.
Current members of the Ethics Commission are:
- Arthur E. Gary, Vice Chair
- Adam Hatton
- Ellen Maidman-Tanner
- Patricia Anne Murphy
- Michael W. Richards, Chair
- Paras Shah
The Commission is charged with meeting at least once each quarter, or as is needed to review an advisory opinion or complaint.
Ethics Advisory Opinions, Inquiries and Complaints
Information on the procedure for requesting an advisory opinion or filing an inquiry or complaint is available here:
Published Advisory Opinions
The Ethics Commission provides written advisory opinions to City officials, employees, and lobbyists concerning the application of the Ethics Ordinance to an actual situation or one seriously contemplated. The Commission provides interpretations of the Ordinance based on the facts provided or reasonably available to it. To the extent practicable, advisory opinions shall be published after deleting any information that would identify the subject of the opinion (unless the person requesting the opinion waives that requirement). The publication of an advisory opinion shall include the publication of a summary in the City Newsletter and the posting of the advisory opinion on the City’s website.
Inquiries and Complaints (Published Orders)
The Ethics Commission reviews any ethics inquiries or complaints concerning covered persons and lobbyists. The Commission may initiate an inquiry or complaint on its own motion.