The Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted March 21 to approve the county’s new Code of Ethics.
According to the new policy, its purpose is to “establish, promote and enforce standards of ethical conduct for all of the county’s officers and employees.”
The policy lays out the circumstances under which county employees and officials may and may not accept gifts. It also explains conflict of interest rules governing employees and officials involved in private businesses who want to do business with the county.
Conflicts of interest in employment and hiring are also covered in the ethics code. According to the policy, no employee or official can appoint or hire any member of their family to fill an office, position or duty when the salary, pay or compensation comes out of public funds. The word “family” is defined in the policy.
The policy also requires any person submitting bids or proposals for county work who has contributed $250 or more to a county official to disclose on their bid the name of the official and the amount of the contribution.
Under the new code, board members along with the chairman are required to “immediately disclose publicly the nature and extent of any financial or personal interest in any proposed legislation or action before the board.” It also requires other county employees and officials who give official recommendations or opinions on legislation to publicly disclose any financial interest they have in the proposed legislation.
The new policy also includes language about a county ethics panel and lays out the rules governing who is on it, its powers and when it can be empaneled.
The new code was approved by the BOC by a 5-0 vote, with exceptions for any departments or offices not subject to the Code of Ethics.