Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 69
September 18, 2002
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
Issue: Whether an employee of the Neighborhood Action Department can
participate in City’s Lead-Based Paint Program
The Neighborhood Action Department (NAD) manages the City’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program. The program identifies and controls lead-based paint exposure to small children in eligible housing. It also covers the cost of testing homes for lead-paint hazards. If lead is found, a Construction Specialist works with local, licensed abatement contractors to make the home "lead-safe." In addition, children under 6 can be tested for exposure to lead.
An administrative staff member of NAD has inquired whether she can apply to be a client of the program. The employee’s duties for the city do not involve the paint program. The employee qualifies under the criteria of the program and there is nothing in its enabling authority that would preclude city employees from applying.
The issue is whether the City Ethics Code would prohibit the employee’s participation. Under the Ethics Code, all City employees, whether part-time or full-time, are required to follow the standards of conduct as set forth in the Code. The Code imposes numerous restrictions on employee conduct in order to promote the public confidence in City government. Ethics Code Part A, Section 1.
Improper Economic Benefit
To avoid the appearance of impropriety, a city employee cannot take any official action that the employee knows will affect his or her own economic interest, or that of the employee’s family, clients or business in which the employee or his or her family holds a financial interest. Part B, Section 1. In this situation, the employee’s official duties do not involve decision-making or other involvement in the lead-based paint program.
The availability of the program is a matter of public information and any member of the public may apply. So long as the employee applies for and is considered for the program under the same standards and procedures as any other member of the public, there would be no violation of this provision.
Unfair Advancement of Private Interests
Part B, Section 2 of the Code prohibits all City employees from using their position to unfairly advance private interests. Again, as stated before, so long as the employee applies for the program and is accepted under the same criteria as any other applicant, she would not violate this provision. The employee should take care to follow all the application requirements and not use her position within the department to unfairly expedite the process.
The Neighborhood Action Department’s Lead-Based Paint Program is open to the general public for application. City employees, even those in NAD, can apply for the program just as any other member of the public, as long as the employee does not use his or her position with the City to unfairly advance their private interest. See Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 28 (city employee may receive financing under City’s rental housing rehabilitation program).