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(A) Purpose. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the city that the proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials and city employees be independent, impartial, and responsible to the citizens of the city; that no official or employee shall permit any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engagement in any business transaction or professional activity to conflict with the proper discharge of his/her duties in the public interest: that public office or employment not be used for personal gain beyond employment compensation; and that the City Council, Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Adjustments, 4A Economic Development Commission, 4B Economic Development Commission. Park Board. Main Street Board, Library Board, and Housing Authority Board, and any appointed or confirmed member of any City of Ferris board, commission, corporation, or committee established by ordinance, charter, state law or otherwise, operating under direct or indirect authority or subject to the direct or indirect control of the City Council, at all times shall be maintained as nonpartisan bodies. To implement such a policy, the City Council deems it advisable to enact a Code of Conduct for all officials and employees, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, to serve not only as a guide for official conduct of the city’s public servants, but also as a basis for discipline for those who refuse to abide by its terms, the overriding interest being that officers and employees of the city shall at all times strive to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
(B) Title; application.
(1) This section shall be known as the Code of Conduct.
(2) The Code of Conduct shall apply to all officials as defined herein.
(3) The Code of Conduct shall apply to all city employees as defined herein.
(C) Definitions. The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this section, shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them herein, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
BENEFIT. Anything reasonably regarded as a pecuniary or economic gain or pecuniary or economic advantage, including a benefit to any other person in whose welfare the beneficiary has a substantial interest.
BUSINESS ENTITY. Any person, entity, corporation (whether for-profit or nonprofit), general or limited partnership, sole proprietorship, joint venture, unincorporated association or firm, institution, trust, foundation, holding company, joint-stock company, receivership, or other entity recognized by law, whether or not organized for profit conducting or seeking to conduct business with the city. BUSINESS ENTITY also includes any business entity that represents a party conducting or seeking to conduct business with the city.
CITY. The City of Ferris, Texas.
CITY COUNCIL. The legislative and governing body of the city, consisting of the Mayor and City Council members.
CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION. Any information to which an official or employee has access in such person’s official capacity, which may not be disclosed to the public except pursuant to state and/or federal law and which is not otherwise a matter of public record or public knowledge.
CONTRACT. Any lease, claim, or account or demand against or agreement with any person, whether express or implied, executed or executory, oral or written.
EMPLOYEE. Any person employed by the city, including those individuals employed on a full-time, part-time, or internship basis, but does not include independent contractors.
GIFT. Anything of value, regardless of form, including a favor offered or given in the absence of adequate and lawful consideration.
INTENTIONALLY. To act with intent concerning the nature of one’s conduct or a result of one’s conduct when it is the person’s conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or to cause the result.
KNOWINGLY. To act with knowledge concerning, or awareness of, the nature of one’s conduct, or to the existing circumstances surrounding the conduct. A person acts KNOWINGLY, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of the person’s conduct whether the person is aware that the conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.
OFFICER or OFFICIAL. The Mayor, any member of the City Council, an appointed or confirmed member of any city board, commission, corporation, or committee established by ordinance, charter, state law or otherwise, on a temporary or permanent basis, and operating under the direct or indirect authority or subject to either the direct or indirect control of the City Council. Such term(s) shall include the City Manager, City Secretary, Municipal Judge, and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Board of Adjustments, the 4A Economic Development Commission, the 4B Economic Development Commission, Park Board, Main Street Board, Library Board, and Housing Authority Board.
RELATIVE. Any person related to an official within the first degree by consanguinity or affinity. This relationship includes the spouse, parents, children, stepchildren, father-in-law and mother-in-law, or son-in-law and daughter-in-law of the official. The affinity relationship continues after death or divorce if there is a living child of that marriage.
SPECIFIC ECONOMIC EFFECT. An economic effect on a business entity that is distinguishable from the effect on the public.
(1) (a) SUBSTANTIAL INTEREST IN A BUSINESS ENTITY means that:
1. The person owns 10% or more of the voting stock or shares of a business entity; or
2. The person owns 10% or more, or $15,000 or more, of the fair market value of a business entity; or
3. The amount of funds received by the person from the business entity exceeds 10% of the person’s gross income for the previous year; and
(b) That action on the matter involving the business entity will have a SPECIFIC ECONOMIC EFFECT ON THE BUSINESS ENTITY that is distinguishable from the effect on the public.
(2) SUBSTANTIAL INTEREST IN REAL PROPERTY. The person has a legal or equitable ownership interest in the real property, which has a fair market value of $2,500 or more; and it is reasonably foreseeable that an action on a matter involving the real property will have a SPECIFIC ECONOMIC EFFECT on the value of the real property that is distinguishable from its effect on the public.
(3) An official is considered to have a SUBSTANTIAL INTEREST if a relative as defined herein has a SUBSTANTIAL INTEREST.
(D) Standards of conduct for officers and employees. No officer or employee of the city, or a relative of such officer or employee, shall:
(1) Have a financial interest, direct or indirect, in any contract with the city nor shall such person have a financial interest, directly or indirectly, in the sale to the city of any land, or rights or interest in any land, materials, supplies or service. The financial interest contemplated requires that the officer or employee receive an actual financial benefit from the transaction with the city. An actual financial benefit from the transaction does not include the following:
(a) An ownership interest in an entity transacting business with the city that is less than one 1%; or
(b) Compensation as an employee, officer or director of an entity transacting business with the city that is not affected by the entity’s transaction with the city.
(2) Participate in a vote or decision on any matter in which the officer or employee has a substantial interest.
(3) Represent or appear on behalf of the private interests of others before the City Council, or any agency, board, commission, corporation, or committee of the city; or represent any private interests of others in any action or proceeding involving the city; or voluntarily participate on behalf of others in any litigation to which the city is a party or to which there is a substantial likelihood that the city will be a party.
(4) Accept any gift from any person that might reasonably tend to influence such officer or employee in the discharge of official duties, or that the officer or employee knows or should know is being offered with the intent to influence that individual’s official conduct. The prohibition against gifts does not apply to:
(a) A lawful political contribution as defined by the Texas Election Code;
(b) An honorarium in consideration for services, unless the officer or employee would not have been asked to provide the services but for the officer’s or employee’s position;
(c) Meals, lodging, or transportation in connection with services rendered by the officer or employee at a conference, seminar or similar event that is more than merely perfunctory;
(d) Complimentary copies of trade publications and other related materials;
(e) Attendance at hospitality functions at local, regional, state or national association meetings or conferences;
(f) An item with a value of less than $50;
(g) Tee shirts, caps, mementos, and other similar promotional material or items with a value of less than $50;
(h) Gifts given on account of kinship or a personal, professional, or business relationship, independent of the officer’s or employee’s status;
(i) Complimentary attendance at political or charitable fundraising events; and
(j) Meals, lodging, transportation, or entertainment furnished in connection with public events, appearances, or ceremonies related to official city business, if furnished by the sponsor of such public events.
(5) Use such person’s official position to secure special privileges or benefits for such person or others.
(6) Grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any citizen, individual, business organization or group beyond that which is normally available to every other citizen, individual, business organization or group.
(7) Disclose confidential information.
(8) Use city supplies, personnel, property, equipment or facilities (whether tangible or intangible) for any purpose other than to conduct official city business, unless otherwise provided by law, ordinance or city policy.
(9) Act as a surety on any official bond required of any officer or employee of the city, or for a business that has a contract with the city.
(E) Additional standards.
(1) No member of the City Council, Planning and Zoning Commission, or Board of Adjustments shall participate in the discussion and deliberations of. or vote on. any land use matter, e.g., zoning, variances, plats, or permits, in which such person has a substantial interest in any real property within 200 feet of the real property that is the subject of the land use matter,
(2) No member of the City Council who is on the governing body of a nonprofit organization shall vote on any funding request by that nonprofit organization other than for membership or subscription dues or fees, or as part of the city’s annual budget, unless the nonprofit organization has a governing body appointed in whole or in part by the City Council.
(3) With the exception of those proceedings allowed under this Code of Conduct, no City Council members may personally appear on their own behalf before the City Council, or any city board, commission, corporation or committee; however, a member may designate and be represented by a person of his or her choice in any such personal matter.
(F) Appearance by past officer or employee. No past officer or employee of the city shall, for a period of one year after the date of termination of such relationship with the city, appear before the City Council, or any city board, commission, corporation, or committee, to represent the interests of another on any matter.
(G) Disclosure of substantial interest; affidavit. Any officer or employee who has a substantial interest in any matter pending before the body, board, commission, corporation, or committee of which the officer or employee is a member, shall file an affidavit, before a vote or decision is taken or made on such matter, stating the nature and extent of the substantial interest, and shall abstain from further participation in such matter. Such officer or employee shall not be physically present when such matter is discussed, or when action is taken thereon. The affidavit shall be on a form provided by the city and must be filed with the record keeper for such body, board, commission, corporation, or committee.
(H) Disclosure of real property interest. Upon the election, appointment, or confirmation of appointment, and thereafter on or before January I of each calendar year, each officer shall file in writing with the City Secretary, on a disclosure form provided by the City, the existence and location of any real property in the city in which the officer has an equitable or ownership interest, including any interest of 1% or more in any entity that has an equitable or ownership interest in any real property in the city. Said disclosure shall also include the identity and location of all real property within the city in which the officer has acquired or conveyed any interest since the filing of the last report required by this Code of Conduct. If an officer has an interest in an entity that will not disclose to the officer whether or not the entity has a financial interest in real properly in the city, the officer may satisfy this disclosure requirement by stating such fact in writing to the City Secretary.
(I) Complaints against officers and employees.
(1) All complaints or allegations of a violation of this Code of Conduct against an officer or employee shall be made in writing on a form provided by the city, sworn to before a notary public, and filed of record with the City Secretary. Such complaint shall describe in detail the act or acts complained of and the specific section(s) of this Code of Conduct alleged to have been violated. A general complaint lacking in detail shall not be sufficient to invoke the investigation procedures contained herein; and anonymous complaints shall not be considered. The City Secretary shall provide a copy of the complaint to the affected officer or employee and the members of the City Council, and shall immediately refer the complaint to the City Attorney, who shall conduct an initial review of the complaint to determine if the complaint contains sufficient detail and alleges a violation of the Code of Conduct. The affected officer or employee may file a written response to the complaint within seven days after the complaint is filed with the City Secretary, who shall forward the response, if any, to the City Attorney.
(2) The City Attorney shall submit a written report to the City Council as soon as possible, but in any event not later than 14 days after receipt of the complaint, unless an extension is granted by a majority of the non-implicated Councilmembers. The City Attorney may contact the complainant, interview witnesses, and examine any documents necessary for the report. Such report shall be comprehensive and explain in detail all facts, findings and conclusions in support of the City Attorney’s opinion as to whether or not a violation of this Code of Conduct occurred. When the City Attorney receives a vague complaint or one lacking in detail, the City Attorney shall contact the complainant to request written clarification or supplementation. If the complainant fails to provide the City Attorney with written clarification or supplementation, or if after written clarification is provided, it is the opinion of the City Attorney that the complaint is insufficient in detail and/or fails to allege a prima facie violation of the Code of Conduct, a written report to that effect shall be submitted to the City Council. If the City Attorney determines that probable cause to believe that a criminal violation may exist, the City Attorney shall refer the matter to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
(3) The City Council shall consider the complaint and the City Attorney’s report at an executive session of the City Council. The affected officer or employee may request that the complaint be considered in a public meeting. At such meeting, the City Attorney shall present a written report to the City Council describing in detail the nature of the complaint and the City Attorney’s findings and conclusions as to a possible violation of this Code of Conduct. The affected officer shall have the right to a full and complete hearing before the City Council with the opportunity to call and cross-examine witnesses and present evidence in such person’s behalf. The non-implicated Councilmembers in attendance shall conduct a hearing and review the complaint. The City Council may reject the complaint or take action authorized by division (J) of this section. If deemed necessary the City Council may direct the City Manager, with the concurrence of the City Attorney, to appoint special legal counsel to conduct a further investigation and to provide a written report to the City Council.
(4) No action or decision with regard to the complaint shall be made except in a meeting that is open to the public.
(J) Violations. The City Council may take any one or more of the following actions in an open meeting concerning a complaint:
(1) Issue a written statement finding the complaint is totally without merit, or is brought for the purpose of harassment or in bad faith;
(2) Issue a letter of notification when the violation is unintentional. A letter of notification shall advise the officer or employee of any steps to be taken to avoid future violations;
(3) Issue a letter of admonition when the violation is minor or may have been unintentional, but calls for a more substantial response than a letter of notification;
(4) Issue a written reprimand when a violation has been committed knowingly or intentionally;
(5) Remove from office an officer, other than a City Councilmember, or terminate an employee for a serious or repeated violation of this Code of Conduct. Removal or termination shall be in compliance with state law; or
(6) Pass a resolution of censure or a recommendation of recall when the City Council finds that a serious or repeated violation of this Code of Conduct has been committed intentionally by a member of the City Council.
(K) Adoption of state statute. Chapter 171 of Tex. Local Govt. Code, as amended, the statute that regulates conflicts of interest of officers of municipalities in the State of Texas, is hereby adopted and made a part of this Code of Conduct for all purposes, as if fully set forth herein, with the proviso that, in the case of a conflict between the provisions of this Code of Conduct and the state statute, the more restrictive provision shall govern,
(L) Limitations. A complaint that an officer or employee has violated a provision of this Code of Conduct must be filed with the Ferris City Secretary no later than 12 months after the date the complained of act(s) occurred.
(M) Interpretation of code. Any officer or employee may request, and the City Attorney shall issue, a verbal or written opinion (as deemed appropriate) concerning the meaning or effect of any section, word, or requirement of this Code of Conduct as it affects such person.
(N) Criminal history checks of officers and employees.
(1) Any person making application for employment with the city or for appointment to a position on any board, commission, agency, or committee to which the City Council has the final authority to make such appointment must consent to a criminal history check prior to consideration of the person’s application.
(2) Failure to consent to a criminal history check as required by this section shall be grounds for disqualification for consideration for employment and/or appointment by the City Council.
(3) The City shall cause a criminal history check to be conducted on each applicant for employment or for appointment to a position described in division (A) of this section. If upon review of a criminal history check an applicant is found to have been convicted within the last ten years or is on parole or probation for any of the following offenses, the applicant shall not be considered for employment or appointment: a felony or any offense involving theft, burglary, or moral turpitude. MORAL TURPITUDE may be described as intentional dishonesty, fraud, deceit, conduct contrary to justice, or otherwise immoral conduct.
(4) The provisions of this section are administrative in nature and not subject to criminal penalties.
(Ord. O-16-817, passed 6-6-2016)