FORT LAUDERDALE — Broward County Commissioners have passed a landmark Code of Ethics that will govern the conduct of all elected officials, including city officials in Broward’s 31 municipalities. This is the first time that county and city elected officials will be governed by one uniform code of ethics.
The code is stringent and places restrictions on outside employment, gifts, procurement procedures and fundraising. There are also rules that require full financial disclosure and create venues for easy public inspection of lobbyist interaction with elected officials. Some rules will apply to elected officials, their family members, staff and spouse or registered domestic partner. The Code of Ethics expands the code that was adopted last year and governed only commissioners and, in some instances, their family members and staff.
“This has been a long time in coming and I believe that strict enforcement of this ethics code on city and county officials will restore the public’s faith in government,” said Broward Mayor Sue Gunzburger.
The Broward County Elected Official Code of Ethics prohibits county and city officials from receiving any personal economic or financial benefit resulting from their public service aside from their public salaries. It also requires elected officials to act in a manner that promotes public trust and confidence in government with transparency and honesty, avoiding even the appearance or perception of impropriety.
The Code of Ethics prohibits elected officials, their spouses, relatives, domestic partners and office staff from accepting any gift from a registered lobbyist, vendor or contractor doing business with the governmental entity they serve. Elected officials, family members, spouses and domestic partners cannot work as lobbyists nor can they engage in lobbying activities with other Broward County local government entities, including taxing authorities, quasi-judicial boards, appointed boards and commissions.
The new ethics code also generally prohibits elected officials from voting on procurement committees where decisions are made on purchasing contracts for goods and services. To promote transparency in government, lobbyists and those affiliated with them must sign a contact log when visiting an elected official on government property. The information must include their name, date, the name of the person they are visiting, the purpose of the visit and must be available for public inspection. Communication that occurs between an elected official and anyone lobbying them must also be recorded even if the interaction takes place outside of the office or by telephone or electronic media.
The Code of Ethics also puts fundraising under scrutiny, whether it is for charitable causes or for campaign contributions. While fundraising is allowed, an elected official must fill out specific forms with detailed information which must also be available for public inspection. Elected officials will also be required to undergo a minimum of four hours of ethics training within six months of being elected and receive eight hours of continuing education on public service ethics on an annual basis.
Enforcement of the Code of Ethics is the responsibility of the newly created Office of Inspector General. Significant sanctions could be imposed on those who violate the Code of Ethics.
The Code of Ethics, which has governed County Commissioners since August of last year, will apply to all city commissioners on Jan. 2.
***Pictured above is Broward County Mayor Sue Gunburger