2005 Legal Opinions and Advisories

January 28, 2005
A Corporation Counsel opinion was requested as to whether there are any restrictions on the elected Sheriff of Milwaukee County using a county-owned vehicle for transportation purposes within Milwaukee County at any time.  Corporation Counsel opined that the Office of the Sheriff is a constitutional office and the Sheriff is on duty in his county 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Therefore he or she may use a county-owned vehicle at any time while within the jurisdiction of the county.
February 22, 2005
A county department administrator sought an Ethics Board opinion as to whether it would be an Ethics Code violation to accompany a county vendor, at the vendor’s expense, for a one-day out-of-state trip to observe the operation of equipment located at one of the vendor’s other customers.  The county was in a multi-year contract with the vendor, which would be up for renewal in several years.  The purpose of the trip was to educate the administrator as to how to better use the county’s equipment.  The Ethics Board opined that under the circumstances it would be unreasonable to construe the trip as being intended to influence the administrator, and the trip therefore did not violate the Ethics Code.
April 27, 2005
A company doing business with the county sought an Ethics Board opinion regarding its desire to invite county officials to attend its yearly conference free of charge.  The conference was related to the officials’ duties and included breakfast, lunch, a baseball game, and a cocktail reception concluding the event.  The Ethics Board opined that, since the conference was related to the officials’ duties, the officials could attend free of charge.  The Ethics Board also concluded that the breakfast and lunch were being offered coincidentally to the conference, and the officials may therefore accept the breakfast and lunch without the necessity of reporting it on their Statement of Economic Interests.  However, the Ethics Board opined that the baseball game, cocktail reception and other vendor-sponsored events and activities were not integral parts of the conference, and the officials’ could not accept those items free of charge.
October 3 2005
The Ethics Board sought an opinion regarding proposed changes to the SEI form.  Corporation Counsel opined that only those elements provided in M.C.G.O. § 9.04 should be included in the SEI form.
October 14, 2005
A county official requested an Ethics Board opinion regarding whether he needed to abstain from voting on certain matters.  The official was a member of a business whose clients had matters come before the governing body on which the official served.  Although the official was a full partner in the business, his ownership equated to less than ten percent of the business’s equity.  In addition, the official did not work directly with those clients that were appearing before the governing body.  The Ethics Board concluded that, under these facts, the official would not be required to abstain from voting on matters involving his business’s clients.  Although officials are prohibited from using their public position to obtain financial gain or anything of value for the private benefit of an organization with which they are associated, under the Ethics Code, an individual is “associated with” a business only if he or she owns or controls at least ten percent of the outstanding equity.  Here, since the official did not own or control at least ten percent of the outstanding equity, and since he was not directly involved with the particular clients appearing before the committee, he was not required to abstain from voting on matters related to those clients.
December 28, 2005
A county employee inquired as to whether it would be an Ethics Code violation and nepotism for a security guard administrator to promote his sons, who worked in the same department, into higher paying positions than others who did the same work.  The Ethics Board advised that it would be an Ethics Code violation for a father to directly promote his sons and give them a higher salary than others got for the same position, but that in this instance the father had no involvement in his sons’ promotions and they were being paid the same as other employees, so no Ethics Code violation had occurred.
December 28, 2005
A county department director inquired as to whether it would be a violation of the Ethics Code for him to accept an invitation to a large dinner/dance event sponsored by an organization that has several contracts with the county department of which that the individual was the director.  The Ethics Board concluded that this would be a violation of the Ethics Code, because the dinner/dance invitation could reasonably be expected to influence the director’s official actions and/or be considered as a reward for past action.

This site is powered by the Northwoods Titan Content Management System