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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 2 - Codes of Ethics and Other Local Actions

Code of Ethics

Local codes of ethics are intended to provide standards of conduct with respect to matters that are not covered by article 18. Every municipality is authorized or required to adopt its own code of ethics. Because of differences in the size and situations faced by different municipalities in the State, one comprehensive set of rules would not work for all.

A code of ethics provides guidance to municipal officers and employees by setting forth standards of conduct reasonably expected of them in areas including, but not limited to, disclosure of interest in legislation before the local governing body, holding investments in conflict with official duties, private employment in conflict with official duty, and future employment.

A audit by our office found that gaps exist in local officials’ awareness and compliance with the provisions of their municipal codes of ethics. Although all of the municipalities audited had adopted a code of ethics, we found:

  • Required provisions were not included
  • Some chief executive officers did not know that their municipality had a code of ethics
  • Periodic reviews of the codes were not conducted
  • Distribution requirements were not met
  • Ethics training was insufficient
  • Requirements, especially pertaining to financial disclosure, were enforced inconsistently.

It is not sufficient to simply enact a Code of Ethics and then ignore it. Local government officials need to ACT continuously on their entity’s code of ethics:

  • Adopt a Code of Ethics setting forth standards of conduct for all officials and employees
  • Conduct periodic reviews of the code to ensure it still adequately addresses the expected conduct and remains a current and meaningful document
  • Train all officials about the code and emerging ethics issues to help them understand and comply with ethics requirements.

  Next: Who is Required to Adopt a Code of Ethics