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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

The Academy for New York State's Local Officials

Protecting the Public’s Interest: A Tutorial on Local Government Ethics and Transparency in New York State

Module 1 - Conflict of Interest of Municipal Officers and Employees

Introduction

Municipal officers and employees need to be above reproach in putting the interests of their constituents above their own. Citizens depend on officials to act in the public good, and to be honest and efficient in their handling of public resources.

Ethics for public officials and employees involves more than financial resources and controls. Its scope includes any activities, such as information peddling and nepotism, where personal interests are put before those of the public. And it extends to avoiding even the opportunity for or the appearance of impropriety.

In New York State, local governments and school districts share the responsibility with the State for defining ethical conduct. Article 18 of the General Municipal Law defines conflicts of interest in municipal transactions but gives each community the responsibility to establish its own standards of conduct through a code of ethics. Article 18 prohibits activities in some cases and requires disclosure in others. Its focus is mainly on business relationships, but it also deals with several other ethical issues.

Before you start on this course material, here is a brief assessment of your knowledge on the subject. Please recognize that these questions cover only a few of the issues that will be discussed in this tutorial.

Throughout this tutorial, we will be using the terms local government and municipality in their broadest sense, to include school districts and BOCES, fire districts, and special purpose districts, all of which are subject to ethics laws.

This tutorial includes brief video segments presented by OSC Senior Attorney, Mark Stevens, who helps shed some more light on ethics laws. In this segment, Mark gives a brief overview of the importance of Article 18.

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(Video Transcript - Introduction)

  Who is Subject to Article 18