NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A7477
SPONSOR: Thiele (MS)
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the general municipal law, in relation
to conflicts of interest of municipal officers and employees, codes of
ethics and boards of ethics; and to amend chapter 946 of the laws of
1964, amending the general municipal law and other laws relating to
conflicts of interest of municipal officers and employees, in relation
to permitting local codes of ethics to prohibit activities expressly
permitted by article 18 of the general municipal law
To strengthen the current conflict of interest and ethics laws covering
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section one of this bill amends subdivision 3 of Section 800 of the
General Municipal Law to deem a municipal officer or employee to have an
"interest" in a contract between the municipality which he or she serves
and a business entity which is affiliated with his or her spouse.
Section two of this bill amends Section 801 of the General Municipal Law
to correct a technical error.
Section three of this bill amends Paragraphs b and j of Subdivision 1 of
Section 802 of the General Municipal Law to: (a) include spousal employ-
ment within the "duties and remuneration" exception to the prohibition
on interests in contracts; and (b) expand the applicability of the
"rural municipalities" exception to that prohibition.
Section four of this bill amends Paragraph a of Subdivision 2 of Section
802 to include spousal stockholdings in the "de minimis stockholding"
exception to the prohibition on interests in contracts in
Section five of this bill amends Section 805-a of the General Municipal
Law to: (a) prohibit a municipal officer or employee from acting in most
circumstances in relation to matters requiring the exercise of
discretion when the action could confer a benefit on himself or herself,
a relative, or a private organization in which he or she is deemed to
have an interest; (b) require public disclosure of the circumstances
warranting recusal; and (c) generally prohibit a municipal officer or
employee from using or permitting the use of municipal property or
resources for personal or private purposes.
Section six of this bill amends the Section heading of Section 806 of
the General Municipal Law.
Section seven of this bill amends Paragraph (a) of Subdivision 1 of
Section 806 of the General Municipal Law to: (a) require improvement
districts governed by article 13 of the Town Law to adopt a code of
ethics; (b) require municipal codes of ethics to provide standards of
conduct in relation to nepotism; (c) allow such codes to prohibit
contracts or conduct that is either expressly or by implication permit-
ted by section 802 or section 805a of the General Municipal Law; and (d)
require the governing body of a municipality that adopts a code of
ethics to review the code every five years and, when deemed necessary,
to update its code of ethics.
Section eight of this bill amends Subdivision 2 of Section 806 of the
General Municipal Law to require: (a) promptly after adoption of a code
of ethics or amendment thereto, a paper or electronic copy of such code
or amendment be distributed to every officer or employee of a munici-
pality; (b) a complete and current copy of a municipality's code of
ethics to be posted on the municipality's website (if any), and distrib-
uted to every officer and employee of the municipality promptly follow-
ing such person's election or appointment and at least once every five
years; and (c) every municipal officer or employee who receives a code
of ethics or amendment thereto to acknowledge promptly in writing that
he or she has received and read it, and to file the acknowledgment with
the clerk or secretary of the municipality.
Section nine of this bill amends Section 806 of the General Municipal
Law by adding a new Subdivision 3 to require the clerk of certain poli-
tical subdivisions to retain as a record subject to public inspection a
copy of the municipality's or political subdivision's code of ethics or
any amendments thereto, a statement that the municipality or political
subdivision has established a board of ethics and a copy of the form of
annual statement of financial disclosure. Section ten of this bill
amends Section 808 of the General Municipal Law to: require every (i)
county, (ii) city, town and village having a population of 25,000 or
more and BOCES to have a board of ethics; authorize all other munici-
palities to establish their own boards of ethics or to participate in a
cooperative board of ethics; provide generally that where a munici-
pality, other than a school district, has not exercised the option to
establish its own board of ethics or to participate in a cooperative
board of ethics, the county board of ethics would serve as the munici-
pality's board of ethics; provide generally that where a school district
has not exercised the option to establish its own board of ethics or to
participate in a cooperative board of ethics, the BOCES board of ethics
would serve as the school district's board of ethics; enhance the inde-
pendence of boards of ethics by requiring local governments to establish
a term of office for the members of the board; require training for
members of boards of ethics on the law relating to conflicts of interest
and ethics; clarify that a municipality's board of ethics has responsi-
bility for collecting, reviewing and enforcing requirements related to
annual financial disclosure statements; and authorize boards of ethics
to conduct ethics training for local officers and employees and provides
that board members shall attend and successfully complete a training
course the contents of which is approved by the State Comptroller. The
amendments to this section shall not apply to a city having a population
of one million or more or to a county, school district, or other public
agency or facility therein.
Section eleven of this bill amends Subdivision 9 of Section 810 of the
General Municipal Law to define the term "appropriate body" as meaning
the board of ethics of a political subdivision or municipality.
Section twelve of this bill amends Section 13 of chapter 946 of the laws
of 1964 to permit local codes of ethics to be more stringent than arti-
cle 18 of the General Municipal Law.
Section thirteen of this bill requires the governing board of any muni-
cipality which on the effective date of this act has a board of ethics,
but has not established a term of office for the members of such board,
to establish a term of office for the members of such board to commence
on a date no later than the first day of the municipality's fiscal year
commencing in 2020, and provides that on such date the positions on such
board of ethics shall be deemed vacant.
Section fourteen of this bill requires any person serving as a member of
a local board of ethics on the effective date of this act to successful-
ly complete the training course required by this act within one year of
the effective date of this act.
Section fifteen of this bill provides that this act shall take effect on
the first of January next succeeding the date on which it shall have
become a law; provided, however that paragraph (d) of subdivision 1 of
section 808 of the General Municipal Law, as added by section ten of
this act, shall take effect January 1, 2021.
At a time when public integrity and ethics are at the forefront of
concern in the State, it is appropriate to recommit to efforts to ensure
that local government officials adhere to high standards of conduct.
Indeed, many leading authorities, bar associations, and public interest
groups have long called for amendments to the statewide law governing
conflicts of interest on the part of municipal officials. The current
statute governing local officials' conduct, General Municipal Law Arti-
cle 18, was enacted in 1964 and establishes statewide rules, applicable
outside of the City of New York, relating to interests in contracts,
gifts, the disclosure and use of confidential information,.and appear-
ances before municipal agencies. It also requires most municipalities to
supplement the statewide rules through the adoption of a code of ethics
setting forth standards of conduct for their officers and employees.
Despite the high aspirations for those laws, the Office of the State
Comptroller (OSC) has identified through its advisory opinion function
ways in which the law can be improved. Through its audits and surveys of
local governments, OSC has also found that knowledge and understanding
and, consequently, compliance with conflict of interest and ethics
requirements may not be as high as desired. This legislation would
address these concerns by strengthening current law in a number of ways.
For example, this legislation would prohibit municipal officers and
employees from acting in relation to certain matters in which they or a
relative have an interest, expand the issues required to be addressed in
local codes of ethics to include nepotism, and require them to oversee
and enforce local annual financial disclosure filing requirements, and
permitting them to provide training to board members, municipal officers
and employees on conflicts of interest and ethics. The cumulative effect
of these changes would be to enhance local government officials' capaci-
ty to do their work with the highest degree of integrity and ethics.
The Comptroller urges passage of this legislation.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
A.7317 of 2017-18
A.7669-A of 2015-16
A.6596-A (Third Reading Calendar) of 2013-14
S. 7539 and A.10512 of 2011-2012
S. 7400-A (Passed Senate) and A. 10682-A of 2009-2010
To be determined.
This act shall take effect on the first of January next succeeding the
date on which it shall have become a law; provided, however that the
amendments to paragraph (d) of subdivision 1 of section 808 of the
General Municipal Law made by section ten of this act shall take effect
January 1, 2021.