It is unethical for a local official to violate a law, especially
the city or county charter. But such a violation is usually not a
government ethics violation, because it has nothing to do with conflicts
of interest. It may be a misuse of office, but it is not a misuse of office to benefit oneself, one's family, or one's business associates.
And yet some ethics codes contain a provision making a
legal or charter violation an ethics violation. Here is one from
Forest Park, GA, a city of just under 20,000, which has been the basis for the city's two ethics complaints in
the last three years, according to an
article in the Clayton News Daily
Section 2-2-44(t). No city official
shall engage in any activity or transaction that is prohibited by
law now existing or hereafter enacted which is applicable to
him/her by virtue of being a city official.
Both ethics complaints alleged that high-level elected officials
ordered members of the executive branch to do something. The city charter
prohibits this. Such acts are generally prohibited by charters in
council-manager governments, such as Forest Park's.