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Best Practices for County Employees

Guidelines of Conduct

This website is provided as an information resource only and should not be used for general application to other facts or scenarios. For authoritative information consult the Wisconsin Statutes, the Milwaukee County Code of General Ordinances or the Milwaukee County Ethics Board.

Best Practices

The proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial and responsible to the people. The ethical public official or employee accepts the responsibility that his or her mission is to be a servant and steward to the public. Therefore, decisions and policies must be made in the best interests of the people, the community and government. In recognition of these goals, county officials and employees should adhere to the following ethical principles.

County Officials and Employees Should:

  • Properly administer the affairs of the county
  • Promote decisions that benefit the public interest
  • Actively promote public confidence in county government
  • Preserve and protect the funds and property of the County
  • Conduct and perform the duties of their office or employment diligently and promptly
  • Maintain a positive image to pass constant public scrutiny
  • Evaluate all decisions so that the best service or product is obtained at a minimal cost without sacrificing quality and fiscal responsibility
  • Inject the prestige of the office into everyday dealings with the public, employees and associates
  • Maintain a respectful attitude toward officials, employees and associates
  • Effectively and efficiently work with governmental agencies, political subdivisions and other organizations in order to further the County's interests
  • Faithfully comply with all laws and regulations applicable to the county and impartially apply them to everyone (M.C.G.O., § 9.01(2)(a))

County Officials and Employees Should Not:

What Are the Guidelines Regarding Political Activity?

While county public officials (elected and appointed) and employees are not prohibited from engaging in political activity during their free time, there are restrictions as to political activity while at work or while engaging in their official duties.

Examples of prohibited conduct include (M.C.G.O. § 9.06(1)):

  • Wearing or displaying campaign material endorsing a candidate, party or position while you are at work (e.g., button or t-shirt)
  • Distrbuting campaign literature while you are at work
  • Soliciting contributions on behalf of a candidate for office while you are at work
  • Circulating nomination papers on behalf of a candidate for office while you are at work
  • Engaging in political campaign activities on behalf of a candidate for office while you are at work (e.g., making phone calls)

Furthermore, county employees may not coerce or attempt to coerce contributions or services from subordinate employees in support of a political party or candidate or with regard to a referendum position (M.C.G.O. § 9.06(2)). County employees may not retaliate against or reward any employee for refraining from participating in political activity.

In addition, county elected officials may not solicit a campaign contribution from any “at will employee,” meaning any employee who is not under a union or labor contract with the county, who is hired for an indefinite term or who is under an independent contract with the county or its subparts or who can be discharged or terminated at any time for any nondiscriminatory reason (M.C.G.O. § 9.05(2)(j)).

No elected official or candidate for a county elected office shall promise an appointment to any county position as a reward for political activity (M.C.G.O. § 9.06(3)).

For more information about political campaigns and election laws, visit the Milwaukee County Election Commission.

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Ethics Board Formal Opinions


Attorney Adam J. Gilmore - Executive Secretary
Milwaukee County Courthouse
901 N. 9th St., Room 212-E
Milwaukee, WI 53233

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