2007 Legal Opinions and Advisories

February 6, 2007
The Ethics Board sought a Corporation Counsel opinion as to whether it is a violation of the Ethics Code for a county official or employee to solicit funds or services while using their title.  Corporation Counsel opined that in order to fully answer this inquiry, the intended beneficiary of the solicitation must be identified.  If the official making the solicitation benefits by using his or her title or position, there may be a violation of the Ethics Code.  If the county or some unrelated third party benefits, there is no violation of the Ethics Code.
February 6, 2007
The Ethics Board sought a Corporation Counsel opinion regarding the restrictions imposed by the Ethics Code on the acceptance of free tickets to events offered to persons subject to the Ethics Code.  Corporation Counsel opined that there may be an Ethics Code violation if the giving of the tickets could reasonably be considered a reward for past action or could reasonably be expected to influence the future actions of the county official or employee accepting the tickets.
April 13, 2007
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, which was related to the officials’ duties, included breakfast, lunch and a reception/dinner 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 could 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 reception/dinner was not an integral part of the conference, and the officials could attend only if they paid for it themselves.
June 20, 2007
An Ethics Board opinion was sought by several county officials regarding an invitation to travel by private jet to two other cities to view operations in those cities.  The officials proposed to use their Milwaukee County travel budgets to pay for lodging, food and all other incidentals related to the trip, as well as to reimburse the individual who owned the jet the cost of transportation equivalent to the commercial airfare between Milwaukee and the other two cities.  The Ethics Board opined that, provided the individual was reimbursed as outlined above, there would be no violation of the Ethics Code.
September 14, 2007
The Milwaukee County Ethics Board issued an advisory memo to the County Board of Supervisors regarding the issue of abstention from voting.  It is an Ethics Code violation for County Supervisors to use their office to obtain substantial financial gain for themselves, their immediate family members, or an organization with which they are associated.  Therefore, a County Supervisor would be required to abstain from voting if any item of substantial financial interest came before him or her at a meeting of the County Board or its committees.
September 26, 2007
A county department administrator sought an Ethics Board opinion regarding an “employee of the month” program that was being considered by the department.  The department intended to solicit local businesses for complimentary gift cards that would be used to reward department employees for good performance.  The Ethics Board opined that these solicitations would constitute an Ethics Code violation because they could be viewed as influencing future action, rewarding past action, or benefiting county employees.
October 1, 2007
A group of county officials asked for an Ethics Board opinion about whether accepting a registration fee to an educational seminar sponsored by a company that does business with the county would be an Ethics Code violation.  The food, beverage and travel costs would be paid from the county budget, but the registration fee would be waived by the seminar host.  In addition to the educational aspects, the seminar included a golf tournament, spa treatments, a jeep tour, and several dinners and receptions.  The seminar host was a business that currently was under contract with the county.  The Ethics Board concluded that it would be an Ethics Code violation for the officials to accept the complimentary seminar registration, because in addition to educational aspects, the seminar also included non-educational activities.

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