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NYS Comptroller


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

Module One Summary

Interest in contracts can be considered the heart of ethics for municipal officials and employees. These officials often have significant administrative discretion, and laws pertaining to interest in contracts set forth standards of conduct that help public servants put the interests of their local government before their own.

There are four fundamental questions in determining if there is a conflict of interest:

  1. Is there a contract?
  2. Is there interest in the contract?
  3. Does the official or employee have duties related to the contract?
  4. Are there exceptions allowed in statute?

Even when interest in a contract is permitted, disclosure of the interest may be required.

In addition to interest in contracts, local government officials and employees are barred from engaging in other activities that would constitute a conflict of interest. These activities pertain to accepting gifts, dealing with confidential information, and receiving payment or other benefit for interceding with business before the local government.

The next module will cover ethics enactments by local governments and discuss codes of ethics and boards of ethics and the role they play in helping the official or employee keep the public trust. In addition, it will discuss the importance of ethics training for all municipal officials and employees.

There is a statutory exception that applies to contracts with a membership corporation or other voluntary not-for-profit corporation or association, such as contracts with a volunteer fire company.

  Continue to Module 2: Codes of Ethics and Other Local Actions