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City of Lake Wales, Florida Human Resources Department
Doing the Right Thing

 

City of Lake Wales, Florida

 Doing the Right Thing . . .

Doing the Right Thing

 

 How to Keep Out of Trouble
 A Guidebook

 

CONTENTS


1. WHY DO WE NEED A CODE OF ETHICS?

A position in government is a position of public trust. For this reason, the standards of behavior for public employees are often higher than those for employees in the private sector.

As public employees in the state of Florida, our behavior is governed by Chapter 112, Florida Statutes. We are required by law to avoid any action that might result in or create the appearance of misconduct or conflict of interest.

As employees in Lake Wales' city government, we are employed by the citizens of Lake Wales. We are judged not only by our official actions and conduct, but also by our personal activities when they are related to our work for the city.

The City Commission, elected by the citizens of Lake Wales, relies on us as its representatives to perform city business efficiently and economically, to protect city interests, and to meet the high ethical standards of public service.

Because high ethical standards are critical to a local government's credibility, all city employees must be familiar with the ethic laws that regulate their behavior and must be concerned with how their behavior is viewed by the public.

All of us --employees, supervisors, department heads and the city manager-- share the responsibility for ensuring that high standards of ethical conduct are maintained within the city government.

Although the city's Code of Ethics is new, the laws which it expresses are not new. They are state laws and, as public employees in the state of Florida, we have always been required to obey them. Even though most of us have not known these laws exist, we are fortunate that there have been few violations. With the increasing attention on ethical issues in the press and elsewhere, we want to be certain that every employee understands what is right and what is wrong. This booklet has been distributed to make you aware of the laws and policies which affect you and to provide you with guidelines for behaving in a way that will help you stay out of trouble as a public employee.

City of Lake Wales: 7/1/91

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2. CODE OF ETHICS FOR CITY EMPLOYEES

Each employee of the City of Lake Wales should:

  • Uphold the Constitution, laws and regulations of the United States and the State of Florida and never be a party to their evasion.
  • Uphold the charter, codes and regulations of the City of Lake Wales and never be a party to their evasion.
  • Regard service to the public as the mission of all city employees, and always place service to the public above service to self.
  • Treat all members of the public with respect, courtesy, concern and responsiveness, and never discriminate by dispensing special favors or privileges to anyone.
  • Give a full day's work for a full day's pay, and give earnest effort to the performance of assigned duties as efficiently and economically as possible.
  • Accept no special favors, privileges, benefits or gifts offered by a member of the public or by persons or businesses regulated by the city, doing business with the city or seeking to do business with the city.
  • Use no city property, funds or time for personal purposes.
  • Use no information gained confidentially in the performance of city duties as a means of making private profit.
  • Make no private promise of any kind which is binding upon duties performed as an employee.
  • Engage in no activity, either directly or indirectly, which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of city duties.
  • Demonstrate the highest standards of personal integrity, honesty and conduct in all activities in order to inspire public confidence and trust in city employees.
  • Expose corruption, misuse of official authority or any action which harms the public interest wherever and whenever discovered.

-- Adapted from Code of Ethics for Government Service (U.S. Code of Ethics of 1980, Public Law 96-303)

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3. VALUES FOR CITY EMPLOYEES

There are ten universal values which guide and motivate ethical behavior. These values are:

  • honesty
  • caring for others
  • integrity
  • respect for others
  • promise-keeping
  • responsible citizenship
  • fidelity or loyalty
  • pursuit of excellence
  • fairness
  • accountability

Two additional values are especially applicable to employees involved in government:

  • protection of public trust
  • fiscal responsibility

These values are the foundation of the high standard of conduct expected of city employees. While it is true that some values will not apply to every situation, others will apply to all situations. Everything we do as city employees must be motivated by ethical values. If we are successful in meeting and maintaining the high standard expected of us, the city's government will be perceived as ethical, and we will be trusted as conscientious and dedicated to working on behalf of the citizens of Lake Wales.

As employees of a public organization, it is important that we work within a value system which will strengthen the public's confidence in our ability to serve the public interest.

The city administration has defined a set of values to establish our identity as an ethical and professional organization that is committed to serving the community. The organizational values of Lake Wales' city government are:

  • efficiency
  • accessibility
  • effectiveness
  • responsiveness
  • equity
  • proficiency

We, the employees, are the organization known as the City of Lake Wales. Our actions, individually and collectively, will communicate our values to the citizens we meet every day.

By adopting this Ethics Policy, the City Commissioners have demonstrated that they are committed to ethics in government. It is our conduct, however, that will determine whether this government is perceived as an ethical one.

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4. WHAT DO THESE VALUES MEAN?

honesty, integrity - comply with all laws, regulations, city policies, etc. while performing your duties; be truthful; do the right thing because it is the right thing

promise-keeping - if you say you're going to do something, do it

loyalty - show commitment to organizational values; be a team player; don't "do your own thing"

fairness - be objective and impartial in decision making; treat all persons with equal courtesy and concern

caring for others, respect for others - practice the golden rule: do to and for others what you would like done to and for you in similar circumstances

responsible citizenship - do not violate the rights of others; put the public good above what is good for you; set a good example; tolerate no illegal or unethical actions by anyone

pursuit of excellence - approach every task with the idea that "if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right"; take pride in doing the best possible job that you can do

accountability - take responsibility for your actions

protection of public trust - take no action or make no decision which will harm the public or which will weaken the public's confidence in your ability to serve the public

fiscal responsibility - guard the "public purse" as if it were your own

efficiency, effectiveness - provide the best possible service to the public in the most cost-effective way

equity - provide an equal level and quality of service to all citizens and all areas of the community

accessibility - communicate openly and honestly with the public; be prepared for public scrutiny at all times

responsiveness - answer each citizen's questions thoughtfully, honestly and as fully as possible without violating department or city policies or the rules of confidentiality; if you don't know the answer, help the citizen obtain the answer from the appropriate person; respond to complaints promptly

proficiency - strive for a high level of competency in performing duties and responsibilities; work constantly to improve your ability to serve the public

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5. SOME BASIC DEFINITIONS

As used in this guidebook, words and terms listed below shall be defined as follows:

abuse - improper use of city resources for personal benefit without criminal intent anything of value - includes not only money, but any type of service or consideration given for the benefit of an employee or for the benefit of another person or entity

appearance of impropriety - the perception that wrong-doing or misconduct may have occurred; when a "reasonable person" could "reasonably believe" that "where there's smoke, there's fire"

benefit - refers to an advantage, favor, exemption or anything of value

conflict of interest - a situation in which regard for a private interest tends to lead to disregard of a public duty or interest

corruptly - done with a wrongful intent and for the purpose of obtaining a benefit as a result of an employee's action or inaction which is inconsistent with the proper performance of his public duties

defraud - to intentionally cheat or deceive for personal benefit; usually involves a violation of a civil or criminal law

employee - a person hired by the City of Lake Wales to perform work in return for wages or salary; all persons in full-time or part-time positions on a regular, probationary or temporary basis are defined as employees

ethics - principles of right and wrong behavior

F.S. - a reference to Florida Statutes, our state laws

guideline - an example; because guidelines cannot show every situation which might occur, it is the employee's responsibility to be sure he is not violating an ethics policy or rule

official action - any decision made or action taken (or not taken) in performance of duties or responsibilities as a city employee

official duties - those duties performed on behalf of the city while an employee is "on the clock" and for which compensation is received from the city; this does not include activities engaged in "off the clock" which may involve similar types of skills

Note: In this guidebook, pronouns in the masculine gender shall also apply to females; the use of "he/she" and "his/her" is eliminated so that sentences will read more clearly.

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6. WHAT ARE THE RULES?

1. An employee must not take any action or make any decision, whether or not specifically prohibited, that might result in or create the appearance of:

  • using public office for private gain
  • showing disrespect to any member of the public
  • discriminating against or harassing anyone
  • giving preferential treatment to anyone
  • losing complete independence or impartiality
  • impeding the efficiency or economy of city government
  • making a private promise or agreement which is binding on the city
  • making a decision on city matters outside of official channels
  • adversely affecting public confidence in the integrity of city government

2. An employee must be particularly careful that private interests and activities do not conflict with his public duties or adversely affect his ability to fulfill the responsibilities of his city position.

3. An employee must avoid the appearance of impropriety at all times.

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7. CAN YOU USE CITY PROPERTY FOR PERSONAL REASONS?

No, an employee has a duty to protect and conserve city property and to obey all rules and regulations regarding its use. An employee cannot use, or allow the use of, city property for personal purposes.

DEFINITIONS

city property - all city equipment, vehicles, supplies, facilities or other resources whether owned by the city or leased for city purposes; does not refer to vehicles leased according to the terms of an approved vehicle lease agreement

personal purposes - refers to any activity which is not performed as part of an employee's officially approved city duties and responsibilities

GUIDELINES

Examples of improper use or abuse of city property include:

  • using city envelopes or postage to mail personal correspondence or other items.
  • using the city photocopier or FAX machine for personal matters without reimbursing the city at the same rate charged to members of the public.
  • using a city vehicle to run a personal errand (this does not apply to employees who work assigned shifts and will not have off-duty time to deposit a paycheck before the bank closes on payday).
  • using a city telephone or using city time to engage in personal phone calls which last longer than a few minutes (brief personal calls may be necessary from time to time and are permitted, but don't abuse this policy by tying up city phones for personal business; personal long-distance calls at city expense are prohibited).
  • using city computers, typewriters or word processors for personal matters unless all of the following conditions are met: 1) the use is not during working hours, 2) the use has been approved by the city manager, 3) the use is reimbursed at a rate determined by the city manager according to the type of equipment used and the purpose for which it is used.
  • displaying posters, bumper stickers or other similar items with a commercial, political or other non-official message on city property (items of a non-partisan patriotic nature which are endorsed by the City Commission are permissible).
  • selling commercial products in a city building.

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8. CAN YOU ACCEPT GRATUITIES? ARE GIFTS THE SAME AS GRATUITIES?

All gratuities offered to city employees must be refused. No employee may solicit any gratuity from any person. Whether gifts are gratuities depends on the circumstances.

DEFINITIONS

gratuity - any gift, favor, reward, entertainment, loan, meal or other item of monetary value tendered to an employee by any source other than the city in connection with performance of official duties.

solicit - to ask or seek tendered - offered and accepted; does not refer to items paid for by an employee at the same cost as would be paid by any member of the public

GUIDELINES

Examples of items which are not considered unethical and may be accepted include:

  • gifts given to an employee by a family member, personal friend or co-worker when the circumstances make it clear that it is the personal or social relationship which motivates the gift.
  • loans from banks or other financial institutions solicited or accepted on the same terms available to all members of the public.
  • unsolicited items of small monetary value (under $5.00) routinely distributed to customers by businesses for advertising purposes (e.g.: calendars, note pads, pens, etc. bearing a commercial message or logo).
  • awards, plaques or similar personalized items given in recognition of the employee's public, civic, charitable or professional service.
  • donations or gifts of food or non-alcoholic beverages delivered to the work-site which are intended to be offered or distributed to all employees present at the work-site and which are consumed at the work-site.
  • discounts which are offered by a business for promotional purposes and which are offered to all members of a particular category regardless of who their employer may be (e.g., all firefighters in the state, all senior citizens, all employees whose employer joins a corporate program, etc.)

Examples of unethical gifts or gratuities which are not to be accepted include:

  • a free lunch or dinner paid by a vendor, salesman, consultant, etc. (if the meal has a legitimate city purpose, the city will reimburse the employee's expense).
  • Christmas or "thank you" gifts from members of the public or from vendors, contractors, consultants, etc. (decline the item and courteously explain the city's policy).
  • free tickets to athletic games, shows or other events.

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9. CAN YOU ACCEPT "HONORARIA"?

No, all honoraria offered to city employees must be refused. No employee may solicit any honorarium from any individual or organization. Actual and reasonable expenses incurred by the employee in relation to an honorarium event will be reimbursed by the city.

DEFINITIONS

honorarium - the payment of money or anything of value to an employee for giving a speech, program, presentation or similar address or for writing a paper or article; does not include payments received for services related to outside employment

honoraria - plural form of "honorarium"

solicit - to ask or seek

GUIDELINES

Examples of honoraria include:

  • a monetary payment for speaking to a professional, civic, political, advocacy or other organization in connection with official duties
  • desk sets, pens, watches, etc. or other gifts of value greater than $5.00
  • Honoraria do not include:
  • plaques, certificates or similar items
  • a meal offered on the premises for giving a speech or participating in a program, presentation, etc. before a professional, civic or other organization in connection with official duties

Note: An employee must obtain the prior approval of the city manager before committing to an honorarium event.

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10. CAN YOU HOLD A SECOND JOB?

Yes, but City employment is the first priority. Any employee may engage in outside employment, but only if that outside employment will not adversely affect the performance of official duties and will not conflict with responsibilities to the city. Anyone engaging in outside employment must give written notice to his department head on FORM 0208 - Notification of Outside Employment.

DEFINITIONS

outside employment - employment after normal city working hours by any business, corporation, etc. including a business, corporation, etc. owned by the employee

adversely affect - interfere with normal performance of city duties because of fatigue, conflicting work schedules, etc. or prevent employee from responding to an emergency situation which might occur after normal city working hours

conflict - create an illegal, unethical or otherwise inappropriate relationship between an employee's obligation to the public good (the city) and his obligation to any private interest (his own or that of another employer)

GUIDELINES

Outside employment is improper if it:

  • impairs your mental or physical capacity to perform city duties.
  • is likely to cause criticism or embarrassment to the city.
  • requires your attention during official working hours or requires the use of city time or supplies.
  • requires you to share or make use of official information that is confidential or not available to the general public except by request.
  • promotes the use of your title or position with the city or implies an official city endorsement of your outside employer's business, service, product, etc.
  • involves working for an employer who is doing business with the city or is likely to require inspection, permitting or other regulation or action by your department unless specifically exempted (page 15) and after filing FORM 3A or FORM 4A (page 16).
  • creates a real or apparent conflict of interest.

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11. CAN YOU TAKE PART IN POLITICS?

That depends. Employees share with other citizens the right and responsibility to vote and to voice their opinion on public issues. However, because we are public employees and responsible to all the citizens, employees may not engage in political activities during working hours nor engage in partisan political activities which would impair their ability to serve the public at large.

DEFINITIONS

partisan political activities - activities which strongly promote one side, party or person in a campaign for election

impair - weaken, damage or reduce

coerce - to force someone to do something, either by implied or direct threat

GUIDELINES

Improper political activity includes:

  • participating in an election campaign on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for city commission.
  • participating in an election campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for county, state or national office if such participation would impair your effectiveness in serving the city.
  • using official authority or influence to interfere with an election or nomination to office or to coerce or influence another person's vote.
  • placing signs, handbills or other materials on city property or engaging in any activity that may imply official city position regarding a particular candidate or issue.
  • seeking election to the city commission while maintaining status as a city employee.
  • participating in any political activity which is likely to cause criticism or embarrassment to the city.

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12. CAN YOUR RELATIVES WORK FOR THE CITY?

Yes, except under certain conditions. Employees may not employ, supervise, evaluate or promote any relative nor recommend any relative for employment or promotion.

DEFINITIONS

relative - spouse, parent, child, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, first cousin, stepparent, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law

GUIDELINES

A relative may not work in your department if:

  • you are delegated the responsibility to hire or dismiss other employees or to recommend the hiring or dismissal of other employees.
  • you are in a supervisory position within your department and would have supervisory responsibilities over the relative.
  • you are in a position to evaluate or appraise the performance of the relative.

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13. WHAT ABOUT USING INFORMATION PICKED UP ON THE JOB?

An employee may not divulge any information, other than public information, that was obtained as a result of his city position to gain personal advantage for himself or anyone else.

DEFINITIONS

information obtained as a result of city position - refers to any information that has not been distributed to the public through media reporting, direct mail, public hearings or published legal notices or information that is available to a member of the public only by request

personal advantage - refers to placing the employee or the recipient of the information in a position of advantage over the general public, a situation which constitutes a violation of the public trust; this does not refer to the divulgence or use of information in the performance of official duties

GUIDELINES

Examples of using information for personal advantage include:

  • knowing that the price of real estate in a certain area will go up because of a proposed private development project that has not yet been made public and then purchasing real estate in the area or advising others to purchase before prices go up.
  • disclosing the low bid on an item to be purchased or contracted by the city so that another bidder can adjust his own bid downward.
  • hearing that city officials may take a particular action and "leaking" the information to a member of the press before the action becomes a matter of public record or is released to the press in general (this places the newspaper or reporter in a position of advantage over competitive newspapers or reporters).
  • knowing that the city administration is investigating an employee for suspected misconduct and "tipping off" the employee or providing him with details of the investigation.
  • using city records to compile mailing lists for use in an outside employment situation (these records are public and available to the public upon request, but it is improper for an employee to use such records for personal gain).

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14. WHAT IS COERCION?

Coercion is using your position to force or threaten someone. An employee may not use his position with the city, or allow a family member to use the employee's position with the city, to coerce a person to provide benefit to the employee or to anyone else.

DEFINITIONS

coerce - to force or compel someone to do something, either by implied or direct threat

benefit - a favor, special privilege, exemption, etc.

threat - an expression of intent to hurt, punish or "make life more difficult"

GUIDELINES

Examples of using official position to coerce someone include:

  • implying that inspections will be easier to pass if the contractor performs the building inspector a favor (like wiring his house at cost, etc.).
  • implying that building plans might take a long time to review unless the developer does something for the building official.
  • indicating that nightly police patrols might be less regular if a restaurant owner does not provide free lunches to patrolmen.
  • avoiding a traffic ticket by reminding the officer that you are a city official

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15. ARE THERE BUSINESS AND CONTRACT RELATIONSHIPS WHICH ARE PROHIBITED FOR CITY EMPLOYEES?

Yes. An employee acting as a purchasing agent may not purchase, rent, or lease any realty, goods or services for the city from a business entity in which he, his spouse or child own more than a 5% interest.

Yes. An employee, acting in a private capacity, may not rent, lease or sell any realty, goods or services to the city.

Yes. An employee may not hold employment with or hold any contract with any business entity regulated by or doing business with the city.

Yes. An employee may not hold employment or have any contractual relationship which will create a frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and public duties or which will impede the full and faithful discharge of public duties.

DEFINITIONS

purchasing agent - an employee with authority to commit the expenditure of public funds through a contract or purchase; does not refer to employees who only have authority to request or requisition a contract or purchase by another person

business entity- any corporation, partnership, limited partnership, proprietorship, firm, enterprise, franchise, association, self-employed individual or trust doing business in this state

GUIDELINES

Florida Statutes provides exemptions to the restrictions on employees holding outside employment or contracting with the city. The prohibitions may not apply:

  • when the business is rotated among all qualified suppliers in the city.
  • when the business is awarded by sealed, competitive bidding and the employee, his spouse or his child have not attempted to persuade city personnel to enter the contract and Commission Form 3A has been filed with the county supervisor of elections.
  • when the purchase or sale is for legal advertising, utilities service or passage on a common carrier.
  • when an emergency purchase must be made to protect the public health, safety or welfare.
  • when the business entity is the only source of supply within the city and there is full disclosure of the employee's interest to the City Commission on Commission Form 4A.
  • when the transaction does not exceed $500.

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16. ARE ANY EMPLOYEES REQUIRED TO FILE DISCLOSURE STATEMENTS?

CE FORM 1 - Limited Financial Disclosure The following employees are required to file FORM 1 with the county supervisor of elections within 30 days of beginning employment and by July 1 for each year that employment continues:

  • building official
  • planning director
  • city clerk
  • police chief
  • city manager
  • assistant city manager
  • public works director
  • finance director
  • recreation director
  • fire chief
  • utilities director

CE FORM 3 - Disclosure of Specified Business Interests Any employee who is an officer, director, partner, proprietor, associate or general agent of, or owns more than a 5% interest in any of the following businesses is required to file FORM 2 with the county supervisor of elections within 45 days after becoming a city employee or within 45 days of acquiring an interest in the business:

  • state/federally chartered bank
  • credit union/small loan company
  • state/federal savings & loan
  • alcoholic beverage licensee
  • cemetery company
  • parimutuel wagering company
  • insurance company
  • utility company
  • mortgage company
  • company controlled by the Public Service Commission
  • company with a city franchise

CE FORM 3A - Interest in Competitive Bid for Public Business Employees seeking exemption from the prohibition against doing business with one's agency or holding conflicting employment when business is awarded by sealed, competitive bidding must file FORM 3A with the county supervisor of elections.

CE FORM 4A - Disclosure of Business Transaction, Relationship or Interest Employees seeking exemption from the prohibition against doing business with one's own agency or holding conflicting employment when the business entity is the only source of supply within the city must file FORM 4A with the City Commission.

CLW FORM 0208 - Notification of Outside Employment Employees seeking to engage in outside employment must file FORM 0208 with the department head for approval prior to beginning such employment. Approved forms shall be forwarded to the HR Department for review by the Human Resources Director and retention with the employee's personnel record.

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17. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU KNOW ABOUT AN ILLEGAL OR UNETHICAL ACTION OR DECISION?

Employees are expected to expose a violation of law by an employee or business entity with which the city is doing business if such violation creates a substantial and specific danger to the public's health, safety or welfare.

Employees are expected to expose improper use of public office, waste of funds or any other abuse or neglect of duty on the part of the city, a city employee, or a member of the City Commission or any city board.

Retaliation against an employee who reports any violation, abuse or other improper action is strictly prohibited by Section 112.3187, F.S., and by city policy.

DEFINITIONS

expose - to reveal the existence of an illegal or improper act by reporting the act to any member of the city administration with authority to investigate, manage or otherwise remedy the violation (e.g.: department head, city clerk, police chief, city manager, etc.)

retaliation - discharge, transfer, suspension, demotion or other disciplinary action, reduction in salary or benefits, withholding of bonuses, or any other adverse action against an employee who has reported an illegal or improper act

Note: Employees who knowingly make false accusations are not protected from disciplinary action.

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18. WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF THE ETHICS CODE?

NON-CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR ETHICS VIOLATIONS

In accordance with the provisions of Sec. 112.317, F.S., any violation of the provisions of this Ethics Policy, including, but not limited to, any failure to file any disclosures required or violation of any standard of conduct, shall constitute grounds for and may be punished by one or more of the following:

Written reprimand Public censure and reprimand Suspension from employment for not more than 90 days without pay Demotion Reduction in salary level Dismissal from employment Restitution of any monetary benefits gained from the violation Forfeiture of no more than 1/3 salary per month for no more than 12 months A civil penalty not to exceed $5,000.

FELONY CONVICTIONS: FORFEITURE OF RETIREMENT BENEFITS

In accordance with Sec. 112.3173, F.S., a public employee must forfeit all rights and benefits under the retirement system to which he belongs if convicted of certain offenses committed prior to retirement. These offenses include:

  • Embezzlement or theft of public funds
  • Bribery
  • Unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior
  • Felonies committed with intent to defraud the public or to defraud the public agency in which he is employed

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