Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 2009-05
May 12, 2009
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
May a former city employee work for a business that subcontracts on a city contract? and
If so, may the former employee attend public meetings regarding that contract?
A city department has asked whether one of its former employees may work for a business that subcontracts on a contract overseen by that department. The former employee has attended public meetings regarding the contract, though has not interacted with city staff. City staff has inquired whether the Ethics Code would require any action on their part regarding the former employee’s attendance at the meetings.
III. The Ethics Code - The “Revolving Door” Rules
Ethics Code Standard of Conduct for
The City’s Ethics Code lists the standards of conduct to which a former city official or employee must abide. Those standards of conduct concern:
(1) continuing confidentiality;
(2) subsequent representation of private interests before the city;
(3) prior participation in negotiating or awarding contracts; and
(4) prohibited interests in discretionary contracts with the city.
The second and third standards are of primary interest to this inquiry, and they are discussed below.
B. Representation of Private Interests before the City
Section 2-56(b) states in relevant part:
Representation Before the City.
(1) A former city official or employee shall not represent for compensation any person, group, or entity, other than himself or herself, or his or her spouse or minor children, before the city for a period of two (2) years after termination of his or her official duties. ...For purposes of this subsection, the term compensation means money or any other thing of value that is received, or is to be received, in return for or in connection with such representation.
The Ethics Code does not prohibit a former city employee from working for a city contractor or for an employer that has a subcontract on a city contract. The code does, however, prohibit former employees from representing the new employer’s interests before the city for a period of two years after leaving city employment.
In this inquiry, the former city employee has accepted compensated employment with a city subcontractor, Like any other citizen, he is free to attend public meetings and to observe proceedings, but as a former employee he cannot make representations or interact with city staff regarding this contract. There is no indication that he has attempted to represent his new employer before the city.
C. Prior Participation in Negotiating or Awarding of Contracts
Section 2-57 states:
A former city official or employee may not, within two (2) years of the termination of official duties, perform work on a compensated basis relating to a discretionary contract, if he or she personally and substantially participated in the negotiation, award or administration of the contract.
A former city official or employee, within two (2) years of termination of official duties, must disclose to the City Clerk immediately upon knowing that he or she will perform work on a compensated basis relating to a discretionary contract for which he or she did not personally and substantially participate in its negotiation, award, or administration.
In short, a city employee who has been involved in the award, negotiation or the administration of a city contract cannot engage in work regarding that same contract for a private sector employer for two years after leaving city employment.
There is no indication from this inquiry that this former employee had any involvement with the contract at issue prior to leaving city service. However, the former employee must file a letter with the Office of the City Clerk advising that he is engaged in private employment that involves a city contract, but that he did not work on this contract while he was a city employee.
The Ethics Code does not preclude a former employee from working for city subcontractor, but it does prohibit that individual from representing the interests of the new employer before the city for two years after he or she has left city service. It also prohibits former employees from working on contracts for private employers that the employee was involved with while still employed by the city. If the former employee’s work for a private sector employer involves a city contract, he or she must file a letter with the Office of the City Clerk explaining this work and the lack of involvement with the matter while still a city employee.