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Representation and Appearances

This is the place to discuss how to prevent the conflicts that arise when a city official represents (or appears for) someone before the city or against the interests of the city. The difference between representation and appearance is explained in the comments below. Please comment on this division, and share your experiences and thoughts regarding this area of conflicts.

100(6). Representation

An official or employee* may not represent any other person or entity before the city, nor in any matter not before the city, but against the interests of the city. However, it is acceptable for elected officials to represent constituents without compensation in matters of public advocacy.

Comment: The second sentence of this subsection recognizes that officials are elected to serve their constituents. Thus, for example, when a resident complains to a council member that the public works department blocks the resident's driveway with snow, a council or board member must be able to pursue that complaint with the proper city authorities.

Some cities go into more detail and cover more people in their limitations on representation. Such provisions include the representation by business associates of officials and employees, and acting as an expert witness before the official or employee's board or agency.

100(7). Appearances*

An official or employee* may not appear* before any city department, agency, board or commission, except on his or her own behalf or on behalf of the city. Every time an official or employee appears before the meeting of any municipal body, or when he or she writes a letter to the editor or other publicly distributed writing, he or she is required to disclose before speaking or clearly on the writing whether he or she is appearing in an official capacity or as a private citizen. If the speech or writing is in response to criticism or other communication directed at or regarding his or her official role, the official or employee may respond only in his or her official role.

Comment: Subsections 6 and 7 appear to overlap, because one who represents another usually makes an appearance. However, it is much more clear when an "appearance" has been made than when there is a "representation" relationship, so including both makes it more clear what conduct is being prohibited. Also, subsection 6 includes representation of private interests outside of the city's own boards and departments, when it is against the interests of the city, usually but not exclusively when the city is a party to business or a proceeding. And subsection 7 deals with appearances where the official is representing himself or herself, but it is not clear which hat the official is wearing.

Again, the general rule is that if others see your relationship with a person or entity as "representation," then you should not do it, because it would be perceived as a conflict with your principal role of representing the city. Similarly, if your appearance at a meeting or in writing does not appear to be in the city's interest, you should not appear.

Why are officials and employees restricted from appearing before boards or agencies other than their own? Because restricting only appearances before your own board or agency would, for example, allow a code-enforcement official or the city attorney to represent private clients before the city planning board, because those officials are not members of that board. It would be very difficult to list every possible instance where an appearance before other boards and agencies would be inappropriate. When there is no such conflict, an official or employee should obtain a waiver from the Ethics Commission pursuant to 213.

Some municipalities may go beyond actual representation, and include assistance or legal assistance, with an exclusion for representation or assistance in the performance of the official or employee's official duties.

For volunteers, towns might want to limit restrictions on representation and appearances to their own board or commission, especially those on boards where the opportunity for conflict elsewhere is very small, such as the library board. A list of boards where this exception applies could be added to a subsection 8 that read:

8. Volunteer members of the following boards and commissions may represent persons and entities before, or appear before, any town department, agency, board, or commission other than their own.

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