State Ethics Commission Works Toward a Statutory Code of Ethics: Draft to be Submitted to Legislature in November.
History: When the Ethics Commission began in 2018, one of its first tasks was drafting a Code of Ethics. Unlike the ethics codes of most other states, the code drafted by Ethics Commission is not binding on any state employee or official. It is not backed by the force of law. Because the code is not accepted as the standard for conduct for state public servants, opinions or advice based on it are rarely sought and of little value.
In the fall of 2019, the Ethics Commission requested legislation authorizing it to submit to the General Assembly a draft Code of Ethics to be considered for adoption into law. Two bills, H.634 and S.198 did just that. In February 2020, all six current state-wide office holders signed a joint letter supporting the adoption of an ethics code by statute. Despite COVID-19 side-tracking the bills, the project continues. The chairs of the House and Senate Government Operations Committee have asked the Ethics Commission to continue its work on a draft code, seek public input, and submit it to the legislature in November. The Ethics Commission’s draft code of ethics is ready for public comment. Now is your chance to be heard.
The Ethics Code: This draft Ethics Code covers subjects found in most state and federal codes of ethics. It addresses conflicts of interest, non-delegation of unethical acts, appearance of conflicts of interest or law violations, preferential treatment, use of government position for personal gain, use of confidential or non-public information, use of government resources, gifts, statements obligating the State of Vermont, post-government employment, compliance with other laws and ethics rules or policies, whistleblower protections for ethics complaints, and ethics education and training. This draft ethics code is not as detailed as some other codes of ethics. It reflects the Ethics Commission’s belief that Vermont public servants do not need a complicated list of detailed dos and don’ts, and that ethics compliance in Vermont is best achieved through education and increased public servant ethics awareness.
Enforcement? The Ethics Commission believes adopting a statutory code of ethics setting ethics standards for public servants should come first - before enforcement discussions. Once a code of ethics becomes law, ethics education and awareness will be the first and most effective means to ensure compliance. The Ethics Commission is a willing partner and resource for public servants.
Press Release: Vermont Takes a Step Toward a Statutory Code of Ethics
How you can contribute: Public input sought. Thank you for your help!
To those who submitted comments on the draft code of ethics: A big thank you. Clear ethics standards for public servants and confidence in government go hand in hand. Vermonters and their public servants will benefit from a well-thought-out ethics code. The draft code is being thoroughly reviewed before it is sent to the legislature. Submit comments here.*
Public Hearing. On Wednesday, August 12, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. until noon the Ethics Commission held an on line public hearing to take additional comment. The public comment period ended on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. The Ethics Commission is reviewing all comments received and will post a summary of comments and responses to them soon.
*Written comments sent via USPS to the Ethics Commission office are checked regularly.
August 12, 2020 Public hearing recording: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/5-V6JbvBx2BLE4WczXn1fKICRb36T6a8g3BM-_YLzUwOWNeqHGSM62b38DPHXPGg Password: 3Q!F@Xpb