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Proposed Changes to Ethics Code

The Board of Ethics is proposing an amendment to Chapter 24 of the Code of City of Mount Vernon entitled, “ETHICS, CODE OF” by adding political activity prohibitions and whistleblower protection.  The amendments are as follows:

E. Whistle Blower Protection.

(1) Neither the city nor any person, including City officers and employees, may take or threaten to take, directly or indirectly, official or personal action, including but not limited to discharge, discipline, personal attack, harassment, intimidation, or change in job, salary, or responsibilities, against any official, employee, or other person (or against any member of their family) because that person, or a person acting on his or her behalf, (a) reports, verbally or in writing, or files a complaint with the Board of Ethics or (b) is requested by the Board of Ethics to participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, or is involved in a court action relating either to the alleged violation or to evidence presented or given as part of a Board of Ethics investigation or hearing or  for acting or refusing to act as required by the City’s Ethics Code and/or Article 18 of the General Municipal Law.  The provisions of this section are not applicable when the complainant, witness, or reporter of a violation made accusations or other statements that were malicious and false.

(2) Any City officer or employee who violates section 1 has committed an ethics violation.

(3) In resolving a complaint that a City officer or employee has violated this section, the Board of Ethics may recommend that a retaliatory personnel action be reversed.

(4) With regard to making a report of information concerning conduct which any City officer, employee or other knows or reasonably believes to involve corruption, criminal activity, conflict of interest, gross mismanagement or abuse of authority by another city officer or employee, which concerns his or her office or employment, all City Officers, employees and others are hereby advised of the State of New York Whistleblower Laws Section 740 & Civil Service Law Section 75-b and should be guided accordingly.  Those laws are hereby included by reference and are a part hereof of this section entitled Whistleblower Laws.

(5) City officers, employees and others are hereby advised that a report of information regarding issues stated in section 4 above can be made to the Board of Ethics and will be handled in accordance with the same Board of Ethics rules and regulations for reported violations of the Ethics Code and Article 18 of the General Municipal Law.

(F) Political Activity.

(1) An official, employee, or municipal candidate may not knowingly request, or authorize anyone else to request, that any subordinate or potential future subordinate participate in an election campaign or make a political contribution.

(2) No candidate for any elected office of the City and no City officer or employee shall knowingly request, or knowingly authorize any person to request, that any of the following persons participate in any political campaign activity in connection with any campaign for City elected office:

(a) A City officer or employee; or

(b) any person who has received a financial benefit from the City within the prior twelve (12) months, including but not limited to persons that have contracts to supply goods and services to the City.

Nothing in this subsection shall require that individual names of City officers and employees be deleted from general mailing lists soliciting campaign contributions from City residents, generally, or by geographic area.

(3) Disclosure is required when a person or corporation makes a campaign contribution to a City officer or employee in the prior twelve (12) months in excess of an aggregate total amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) where that person or corporation is engaged in a professional contract with the City.  The disclosure shall be made in writing and shall be retained in the City Clerk’s Office as well as in the records of the Board of Ethics.  Nothing herein shall require recusal by the City officer or employee; solely disclosure.

(4) No City officer or employee shall engage in any political campaign activity while on duty for the city, with the use of city funds, supplies, vehicles, or facilities, or during any period of time during which he or she is normally expected to perform services for the city, for which compensation is paid.

(5) No City officer or employee shall solicit any subordinate to engage in political campaign activity on behalf of any candidate for any elected office, including but not limited to City elected office.

(6) No City officer or employee shall request any subordinate to change their political affiliation.

(7) Nothing herein shall prevent any City officer or employee from voluntarily: engaging in any political campaign activity, voting, making a campaign contribution, engaging in free speech, assembling for political purposes, or engaging in other acts not prohibited in this section. For further information regarding the proposed amendment, please contact members of the Board of Ethics at mountvernonethics@hotmail.com.

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