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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 2 - Codes of Ethics and Other Local Actions

Boards of Ethics

Article 18 authorizes counties and other municipalities to establish a board of ethics and to appropriate moneys for the board. The statutory functions of a board of ethics are to render advisory opinions to municipal officers and employees with respect to Article 18 and local codes of ethics, to make recommendations on the drafting and adoption of local code of ethics or amendments to a code, and to administer a municipality’s system of annual financial disclosure (which we will discuss later).

Under Article 18, the power to establish a county board of ethics is vested in the governing body of the county. The members of a county board of ethics are appointed by the county governing body, unless the county operates under an optional or alternative form of county government or county charter, in which case the members are appointed by the county executive or county manager, as the case may be, subject to confirmation by the governing body. A county board of ethics must have at least three members, the majority of whom may not be officers or employees of the county or any municipality within the county; however, at least one other member must be an officer or employee of the county or of a municipality in that county. Members of a board of ethics receive no salary or compensation for their service on the board and serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority.

Article 18 generally authorizes a county board of ethics to render advisory opinions to the officers and employees of any municipality wholly or partly within the county, but only upon the written request of a municipal officer or employee under such rules and regulations as the board may prescribe. In performing this function, the board may obtain advice from counsel employed by the board, or if none, from the county attorney. A county board of ethics may also make recommendations with respect to codes of ethics but only upon the request of the governing body of a municipality in the county.

The governing body of a municipality other than a county may establish its own local board of ethics. In such case, the local board of ethics has the same powers and duties and is governed by the same conditions as a county board of ethics, except that the local board may act only with respect to the officers and employees of the municipality that established the local board. If a municipality establishes a local board of ethics, the county board may not act with respect to the officers and employees of that municipality, unless the local board refers the matter to the county board.

Let’s listen to what Mark has to say about boards of ethics.

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