Ethics Commission Information
How to File an Ethics Complaint
Filing an ethics complaint is a serious matter. Your complaint will be individually reviewed by the Ethics Commission. It is important to provide as much detail as possible in the complaint. Below are the recommended steps in order to file your complaint.
- Review the Ethics Ordinance. The Ethics Committee is bound to follow the law contained in the Ethics Ordinance itself. Something that may seem not right to you may not be against the Ordinance itself. Therefore, it is helpful to include a reference to the potential violation from the Ordinance when filing a complaint.
- Submit a written complaint. Your submission must include your name, home and email addresses, telephone number, and a statement as to the facts and circumstances giving rise to the complaint.
- Your complaint will then be reviewed by the independent Ethics Commission in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures.
- Decisions on a complaint should be issued within 90 days of receipt of the complaint.
The County, recognizing that its system of representative government is dependent in part upon the people maintaining the highest trust in its public officials and employees, has found and declared that the people have a right to be assured that the impartiality and independent judgment of public officials and employees will be maintained. It is evident that this confidence and trust is eroded when the conduct of the County’s business is subject to improper influence and even the appearance of improper influence. For the purpose of guarding against improper influence, the County enacted this law to establish minimum standards for the conduct of County business.
Who is Covered
All Board and Commission members, officials and employees of the Frederick County Government are covered and are subject to the provisions of the Frederick County Ethics Law. The Frederick County Board of Education members and employees, the Frederick County State’s Attorney, the Frederick County Sheriff and the officials and employees of the Courts are not a part of the Frederick County Government and therefore are not covered by this law. All of those persons are covered by similar ethics laws.
The Frederick County Ethics Commission
Members of the Commission are volunteers who serve without compensation. Seven regular members and 1 alternate member are appointed to the Commission by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council for terms of 3 years each. Members elect a chairperson, who presides at the meetings.
The main duties and activities of the Ethics Commission are:
- To conduct hearings and make determinations on alleged violations of the Ethics Law
- To give advisory opinions to persons concerning the interpretation and application of the Ethics Law
- To handle all matters concerning the Ethics Law and Public Ethics Law, including making recommendations for changes of the Ethics law to the County Governing Body
Provisions of the Ethics Commission
Conflicts of Interest
The Frederick County Ethics Law prohibits all covered persons from acting in their County positions in any matter that would have a direct financial impact on them or on a close relative or business associate. The law also prohibits County Government officials and employees from being employed by or having an interest in a company or business that does business with the County Government or is regulated by their agency. Likewise, it prohibits County officials and employees from soliciting or accepting gifts from anyone who is negotiating a contract with the County Government or is regulated by their agency, with certain nominal exceptions. The law also prohibits former employees or officials from dealing with the County Government following their termination of employment on any matter that they substantially participated in while still with the Government. The law further prohibits officials and employees from using the prestige of their office or from using “insider” information for their own gain or to help another unfairly.
Nearly all Frederick County officials and all of the top supervisory employees of the County Government are required to submit annual financial disclosure statements, which are maintained as public documents. They are required to list all of their real estate holdings, any and all businesses in which they have an interest, and any other employment.
There are provisions in the Ethics Law for lobbyists to register and file disclosure statements with the Ethics Commission.
The Ethics Law authorizes the Ethics Commission to grant exemptions from the Ethics Law for the following:
- If, in the opinion of the Ethics Commission, there would be an unreasonable invasion of privacy
- It would significantly reduce the availability of qualified persons for public service
- It would not be required to preserve the purposes of the Ethics Law
These exemptions must be applied for either in person or in writing to the Ethics Commission. Enforcement and Penalties:
- The Ethics Law authorizes the Ethics Commission to issue cease and desist orders against violators that are enforceable in Court.
- Violations of the lobbying provisions in the Ethics Law are punishable by up to 1 year imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine.
The Frederick County Ethics Law and all of the efforts of the Frederick County Ethics Commission are aimed at preventing conflicts of interest by public officials and employees and assisting those persons who may have inadvertently violated the law into correcting the situation and complying with the law.
Further Questions or More Information
If anyone has any further questions or seeks more information concerning the Ethics Law or its application to a particular situation, one may talk to any of the Ethics Commission members, or may call or write to the Frederick County Attorney’s Office, which by law serves as the legal advisor to the Frederick County Ethics Commission. The address is:
Frederick County Ethics Commission
c/o Frederick County Attorney’s Office
12 E. Church St.
Frederick, MD 21701
To inspect public records such as financial disclosure statements, lobbyist registrations, and lobbyist activity reports that are not available online, please contact Kim Long at 301-600-1030.