Agenda Item 6C
February 2, 2016
Drummer, Senior Legislative Attorney
Action: Expedited Bill 49-15, Ethics - Update
Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee recommendation (3-0): approve the
Bill with amendments.
Expedited Bill 49-15, Ethics - Update, sponsored by Lead Sponsor Councilmember
Leventhal, was introduced on December 1,2015. There were no speakers at the public hearing
held on January 12. A Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee worksession was
held on January 28.
Bill 49-15 would revise several provisions of the County Ethics Law governing conflicts
of interest and financial disclosure to meet the requirements of State law.
The State Ethics law requires that the County Ethics law be "similar" to the State law for all
public employees except elected officials, and must be "equivalent to or exceed the requirements
of" State law for elected officials (County Executive and Councilmembers).
In both cases, the State law allows the County to modify its law ''to the extent necessary
make the provisions relevant to the prevention of conflicts of interest in that jurisdiction". The
State Ethics Commission apparently interprets the latter phrase to only allow those modifications of
County law that would make the County law more stringent than the State law; however, that is not
what this proviso says.
Council staff's view, the primary goal ofthe County Ethics Law generally
should be to improve the County law and make it clearer, more effective, and easier to apply and
enforce, rather than simply conform it to the State law in every detail.
Bill 39-14, Ethics Amendments, enacted by the Council on July 21, 2015, signed into law
by the Executive on July 31, 2015, and effective October 30, 2015, made some significant
amendments to the County Ethics Law to conform to the State Ethics Law. On September 10,
2015, the State Ethics Commission reviewed the County Ethics Law, as amended by Bill 39-14,
and concluded that it conformed to the State Ethics Law with several minor exceptions. See the
letter from Assistant General Counsel, Katherine Thompson dated September 21, 2015 attached at