The Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics (COE) took the following actions at its monthly public meeting held on October 12, 2017.
Two complaints were heard in executive session. The complete files are published on the COE website at: http://www.palmbeachcountyethics.com/complaints.htm.
C15-022: The COE reviewed and considered the investigative report, the probable cause recommendation, and the statement of the COE advocate and respondent. The COE found probable cause exists and dismissed the complaint as the public interest would not be served by proceeding further.
C16-005: The COE reviewed and considered the investigative report, the probable cause recommendation, and the statements of the COE advocate. The COE found probable cause exists and dismissed the complaint as the public interest would not be served by proceeding further.
One complaint was settled in public session. The complete file is published on the COE website at: http://www.palmbeachcountyethics.com/complaints.htm
C16-011: The COE advocate and respondent reached a negotiated settlement, which was accepted by the COE. Respondent admitted to violating §2-443(a) and §2-444(b) of the Code of Ethics. The COE found that the complaints were unintentional and issued a Letter of Reprimand and ordered respondent to pay a fine of $300.
Four advisory opinions were approved. The full opinions are published and available at: http://www.palmbeachcountyethics.com/opinions.htm
RQO 17-017: A Palm Beach County employee asked if employees who work in the Water Utilities Department may accept food from a county vendor without violating the Code of Ethics.
The COE opined as follows: County employees are not prohibited from accepting lunch, so long as (1) the cost per person does not exceed $100, (2) the recipients of the lunch have not accepted additional gifts from that vendor totaling, in the aggregate, more than $100, and (3) there is no “quid pro quo” or special treatment or privileges given to the vendor by any county employee or official in exchange for providing the food at the luncheon.
RQO 17-018: A North Palm Beach village employee asked if the municipality may provide its employees with lunches four times per year as well as with gift cards to Publix at the end of the year as a show of appreciation for their hard work and dedication.
The COE opined as follows: General gifts of appreciation given by the village officials and administration to all of its employees would not be prohibited. However, the employees may be required to report the gifts on gift disclosure forms if the value of the gifts exceed $100 in the aggregate.
RQO 17-019: A city of West Palm Beach employee who works in the Geographic Information System (GIS) Division asked if he may also operate a part-time GIS consulting business.
The COE opined as follows: As long as he or his outside business does not enter into any contract or other transaction for goods or services with the city and he operates his business outside of his city work hours, he will not be in violation of the prohibited contractual relationships provision of the code. He must also take great care not to misuse his governmental employment in any way to give a special financial benefit to himself, his outside business, or the customers or clients of his outside business.
RQO 17-020: A member of the Delray Beach Historic Preservation Board (HPB) asked if he is precluded from voting on a matter before the HPB involving building plans to a property in the Marina Historic District of the city of Delray Beach when he also owns property in that district. His interest in the area is less than one percent.
The COE opined as follows: Because the economic benefit or loss affects a class large enough so as to remove any prohibited individual financial benefit, he is not prohibited from voting on or participating in discussions on these building plans. In addition, based on the location of his property and uncertainty of the construction process, the potential for any financial benefit to result from this vote is not direct and immediate but remote and speculative at best.
A detailed explanation of all agenda items is available at http://www.palmbeachcountyethics.com/meetings.htm.