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Hearing Process

This is the place to comment on and discuss the hearing process for proceedings before the Ethics Commission. The assumption here is that such proceedings are public after a finding of probable cause. The discussion of whether or not they should be public is elsewhere.

214. Public Hearing Process.

1. After a finding of probable cause, the Ethics Commission must hold one or more public hearings, and the first public hearing must commence within thirty days after the finding of probable cause. The goal of these public hearings is to determine whether or not a violation of the Code of Ethics has occurred. The hearings will be held with reasonable promptness, with the last hearing to be held not more than one-hundred-and-eighty days after the finding of probable cause.

2. Any person who is, in the opinion of the Ethics Commission, adversely affected by comments made during a hearing, may testify in response at a hearing, directly or through a representative.

3. The Ethics Commission may refer the matter to an authority or person or body authorized by law to impose disciplinary action pursuant to applicable law or collective bargaining agreement or, if it determines there are possible criminal violations, to the appropriate prosecutor.

4. Extension of time.
Under extraordinary circumstances, extensions of time to any of the time limitations specified in this section may be granted by the Ethics Commission upon a vote of four sitting members. However, in no event may the total modified time period, i.e., the original time period plus the extension(s), exceed double the time period prescribed by this code.

a. The Ethics Commission must give written notice of any extension(s) of time to the respondent and the complainant.

b. Exceptions.

(1) No extensions may be given for time periods required for notification.

(2) No extensions may be given for the time limitation for ruling on actions, unless otherwise specified in this code.

5. Rules and Procedure for Public Hearings.
a. Public hearings will be conducted under the Ethics Commission's rules and regulations, subject to any applicable provisions of law and collective bargaining agreements. The rules and regulations will include the following: oral evidence will be taken under oath; documentary evidence may be received in the form of copies or excerpts, if the original is not readily available and, upon request, parties and the Ethics Commission will be given the opportunity to compare the copy to the original; the state's administrative rules of evidence, rather than strict rules of judicial evidence, will be followed, to allow a liberal introduction of testimony and documentary evidence; and the complainant and respondent have the right:

(1) To be represented by counsel.

(2) To present oral or written documentary evidence which is not irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious.

(3) To examine and cross-examine witnesses required for a full and true disclosure of the facts.

b. The Ethics Commission may subpoena, and its members may question verbally or in writing, witnesses to testify and may compel production of documents and other effects as evidence, and failure to obey such subpoena shall constitute a misdemeanor.

c. At all hearings relating to a complaint, a court stenographer will record the proceedings.

d. Upon the request of either the complainant, the respondent, or any member of the Ethics Commission, the Ethics Commission will cause the hearings to be tape-recorded or filmed, and a transcript to be made. If this is requested by either a respondent or complainant, the requesting party will bear the costs.

6. With respect to the public hearing process, the Ethics Commission will follow the requirements of Freedom of Information legislation.

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NGauthier says:

The model code does not provide for a stipulated agreement with a respondent wherein the respondent admits to a violation of the code, does not contest the facts, and wishes to reach an agreement with the Ethics Commission with a hearing process.
Such a provision could save the Commission time and expense of a full hearing.

Your thoughts please.

Norman

Norman J. Gauthier
Preston, Connecticut

Robert Wechsler says:

You're absolutely right. That's an important omission, missing from way too many municipal ethics codes, including my model. I will look at some municipal and state solutions this week, and add a provision. Recommendations are welcome.

Robert Wechsler
Director of Research, City Ethics
[email protected]
203-230-2548