Ethics Commission

  • Frequently Asked Questions
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  • Q1:
    What is the Ethics Commission and what are its responsibilities and duties?
  • Q2:
    Against whom can a complaint be filed under the Ethics Code?
  • Q3:
    Who may file a complaint?
  • Q4:
    How do I file a complaint?
  • Q5:
    Where do I file a complaint?
  • Q6:
    Is there a deadline to file a complaint?
  • Q7:
    Can County employees work outside jobs?
  • Q8:
    What is a lobbyist?
  • Q9:
    What is political activity?
  • Q10:
    What types of conduct constitute a Category One violation?
  • Q11:
    What types of conduct constitute a Category Two violation?
  • Q12:
    How do I know if a lobbyist is registered?
  • Q13:
    May persons covered by the code accept gifts?
  • Q14:
    May Elected Officials and Department Heads hire their family members?
  • Q15:
    Who is considered a family member under the Ethics Code?
  • Q16:
    Are Elected Officials and Department Heads allowed to do business with the County after leaving office?
  • Q17:
    May Elected Officials be hired at the County after leaving office?
  • Q18:
    How often do employees receive training on the Code?
  • Q19:
    How often do vendors have to take training on the Code?
  • Q20:
    How often do lobbyists have to take training on the Code?
  • Q21:
    Can the general public take training on the Code?
  • Q22:
    Can I request an advisory opinion?
  • Q23:
    What types of sanctions can the Commission impose?
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  • Q1: What is the Ethics Commission and what are its responsibilities and duties?
  • A: The Ethics Commission was created by Commissioners Court in September 2009. It is a 10-member commission that serves to adopt, publish, and enforce an ethics code governing county public servants. The Commission usually meets on the first Thursday of each month to review items that have been placed on the agenda. With the exception of Executive Session, these meetings are always open to the public. The board does not have bylaws, but is governed by Chapter 161 of the Texas Local Government Code, its own Code of Ethics and Rules and Procedures. Each commissioner has a term length of 2 years.
  • The duties and responsibilities of the Ethics Commission is to adopt, publish, and enforce an ethics code governing county public servants.
  • In addition to the training requirements, a person must also meet the following to be considered to be on the board:
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  • (a) To be eligible for appointment to the commission, a person must:
  • (1) be at least 18 years old;
  • (2) be a property taxpayer in the county; and
  • (3) have resided in the county for the two years immediately preceding the date on which the person´s term will begin.
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  • (b) A person is not eligible for appointment to the commission if the person is:
  • (1) an elected officer;
  • (2) a county employee;
  • (3) a county affiliate;
  • (4) a person employed as a lobbyist;
  • (5) a person convicted of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or a felony; or
  • (6) a person who is delinquent in payment of local, state, or federal taxes.
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  • Q2: Against whom can a complaint be filed under the Ethics Code?
  • A: A complaint can be filed against a County public servant.
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  • County public servant means a person elected, selected, appointed, or employed, as defined below, even if the person has not yet qualified for, or assumed the duties of office:
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  • A complaint can be filed against a County Officer.
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  • County Officer means county judge, county commissioner, county attorney, sheriff, county tax assessor-collector, county clerk, district clerk, county treasurer, county auditor, county purchasing agent, and constable, and the 34th Judicial District Attorney when performing an El Paso County governmental function; or
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  • A complaint can be filed against a County Employee.
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  • County Employee means persons employed by the county or by a county officer; assistant district attorneys of the 34th Judicial District Attorney when performing an El Paso County governmental function; and persons employed in the judicial branch of the county government who are not elected or appointed judges and who are not subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct.
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  • A complaint can be filed against a person appointed by the commissioners court or by a county officer to a position on one of the following, whether the position is compensated or not: an authority, board, bureau, commission, committee, council, department, district, division, or office of the county including, but not limited to the following:
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  • El Paso County Hospital District Board
  • El Paso County Civil Service Commission
  • Emergency Service District 1
  • Emergency Service District 2
  • El Paso County Housing Finance Corporation
  • El Paso County Risk Pool Board
  • Sheriff´s Dept. Civil Service Commission
  • El Paso Mission Trail Zoning and Planning Commission
  • El Paso County Housing Authority Board
  • El Paso County Historical Commission
  • El Paso County Ethics Commission
  • El Paso County Revolving Loan Board; or
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  • a multi–jurisdictional board including, but not limited to the following:
  • Central Appraisal District
  • E911 Enhanced Communication Board
  • El Paso Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board of Trustees
  • Purchasing Board
  • Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Number 5 (TIRZ);
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  • Only those persons appointed to the multi-jurisdictional boards by El Paso County are subject to the Code. Persons appointed by other entities are not subject to the Code.
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  • A complaint can be filed against an attorney at law, including the 34th Judicial District Attorney or his assistant prosecutors, or a notary public, when participating in the performance of a county governmental function. This provision does not include an attorney at law when exercising prosecutorial discretion or the marshalling or allocation of prosecutorial resources, which are state governmental functions.
  • County governmental functions include the activities regulated by the following Sections: Procurement, Conflict of Interest in Employment Practices, Outside Employment, Post Employment Restrictions, Gifts and/or Benefits, Statement of Financial Interest, Political Activity, Reporting Violations of the Code of Ethics, Training, and Lobbyists.
  • A complaint can be filed against a candidate for nomination or election to an elected county office; or
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  • A complaint can be filed against a person who is performing a governmental function under a claim of right although the person is not legally qualified or authorized to do so.
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  • A complaint can be filed against a person while serving as an appointed review officer on a standing preliminary review committee.
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  • Q3: Who may file a complaint?
  • A: An individual who is 18 years of age or older may file a sworn complaint.
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  • Q4: How do I file a complaint?
  • A: The complaint must be filed in accordance with the rules of the Commission. The complaint must be filed with the Commission using the form adopted by the Commission which is attached as an appendix and can be obtained on the County of El Paso Ethics Commission web page.
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  • Q5: Where do I file a complaint?
  • A: The complaint shall be submitted to the address listed on the complaint form.
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  • Q6: Is there a deadline to file a complaint?
  • A: A complaint shall be filed within 180 days of the date the alleged conduct is discovered. The Standing Preliminary Review Committee may waive the 180 day filing deadline for good cause shown. In no event, may a complaint be filed later than 2 years from the date of the alleged conduct. For purposes of this section, a complaint is filed on the date it is hand-delivered to the Commission or on the date that it is deposited in the mail or with a common or contract carrier, properly addressed, with postage prepaid.
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  • Q7: Can County employees work outside jobs?
  • A: County Public Servants shall not accept other employment or engage in outside activities incompatible with the full and proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities with the county, or which might impair their independent judgment in the performance of their public duty. Consequently, a county public servant shall not:
  • – accept other employment or engage in a business or professional activity that the county public servant might reasonably expect would require or induce the county public servant to disclose confidential information acquired by reason of the official position;
  • – accept other employment or compensation that could reasonably be expected to impair the county public servantís independence of judgment in the performance of the county public servantís official duties.
  • It shall be a defense to a complaint filed under this section if a county public servant receives approval from his authorized supervisor pursuant to the El Paso County Civil Service Rules, or other El Paso County or departmental policy.
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  • Q8: What is a lobbyist?
  • A: Lobbyist means a person who, receives, or is entitled to receive under an agreement under which the person is retained or employed, compensation or reimbursement, not including reimbursement for the personís own travel, food, or lodging expenses or the personís own membership dues, of an amount not less than $200 in a calendar quarter from another person or entity to communicate directly with a county public officer. A lobbyist also includes a person who, as part of his regular employment, communicates directly with county public servants to influence decisions or actions by the county public servants on behalf of the person or entity by whom he is compensated or reimbursed, whether or not the person receives any compensation for the communication in addition to the salary for that regular employment.
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  • Q9: What is political activity?
  • A: Soliciting support or funds for the re-election of a person occupying an elective office, or for a candidate for an elective office, or for a political party, or for a political group as defined by Texas Election Code Section 251.001, Subsections (12), (13), (14), and (15); and advocating passage or defeat of any matter or issue on an election ballot.
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  • Q10: What types of conduct constitute a Category One violation?
  • A: "Category One violation" means a violation of the ethics code adopted by the Commission which it is generally not difficult to ascertain whether the violation occurred or did not occur, including: the failure to file a statement or report required under the ethics code in a timely manner that complies with applicable requirements; a misrepresentation in a report required under the ethics code; or a failure to respond in a timely manner to a written notice under Section 161.156(b) of the Texas Local Government Code.
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  • Q11: What types of conduct constitute a Category Two violation?
  • A: "Category Two violation" means a violation of the ethics code adopted by the Commission that is not a Category One violation.
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  • Q12: How do I know if a lobbyist is registered?
  • A: Upon completion of the required training, Lobbyists shall register annually on the form prescribed by the Ethics Commission as a Lobbyist with the County Human Resources Department, and receive a current lobbyist registration card, on or before the date they engage in lobbying activity with a County Officer or department head. All registrations expire December 31st of each year.
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  • Q13: May persons covered by the code accept gifts?
  • A: A County public servant, his family members, or any business organization in which he has a substantial financial interest, may not solicit or accept a prohibited gift or benefit valued at more than Fifty and No/100 Dollars ($50.00).
  • For purposes of this Code, a "prohibited gift or benefit" refers to anything of value including but not limited to: Loans; Travel; Entertainment; Meals and beverages; and Gifts of tickets or free admission to a professional or intercollegiate sporting event or artistic or cultural event.
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  • A prohibited gift does not include:
  • – The solicitation or acceptance of contributions to a political campaign if such contribution is subject to reporting under state law.
  • – A gift or other benefit conferred on account of kinship or a personal, professional, co-worker, or business relationship independent of the public duties of the recipient, unless the donor has a substantial financial interest in a business relationship or real estate purchase or sale with the County and the recipient is in a position to influence any decisions related to the interest.
  • – Commercially reasonable loans made in the ordinary course of the lender's business.
  • – Awards, such as plaques, certifications, trophies or similar mementos, publicly presented in recognition of or in conjunction with public service.
  • – Gifts do not include items for which the County reimburses or items which are received but are donated to a charitable organization within 30 days. If the gift is a perishable item, such as flowers, fruit, or candy, it may be placed on a public counter and shared with employees and the public.
  • – Invitations or tickets to fundraising dinners or public charitable benefit events.
  • – Reasonable entertainment, meals or refreshments furnished in connection with local public events, appearances or ceremonies related to official county business, if furnished by the sponsor of such public event, appearances or ceremonies.
  • – Registration, transportation, lodging and meal expenses in connection with a conference or similar event in which the County public servant renders services, such as addressing an audience, engaging in a seminar, or serving as an officer or committee member of an organization, to the extent that those services are more than merely perfunctory. Any materials received in conjunction with the event shall become property of the County.
  • Persons seeking guidance regarding the applicability of the Code to a particular transaction may seek an advisory opinion from the Commission prior to the transaction. However, such advisory opinion shall not be binding on the Commission should the actual facts of the matter differ from the information presented to the Commission.
    A gift that was not personal to the County Public Servant and was a gift to the County for a County public purpose that was accepted by the Commissioners Court pursuant to Texas Local Government Code Section 81.032.
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  • Q14: May Elected Officials and Department Heads hire their family members?
  • A: County elected officials and department heads shall not advocate the employment, appointment, promotion, transfer or advancement to a paid County position of a family member. Neither shall they supervise nor manage a family member, unless the employee was employed prior to the election or appointment of the department head.
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  • Q15: Who is considered a family member under the Ethics Code?
  • A: See below
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  • First Degree Second Degree
    Person´s spouse  
    Mother & spouse  
    Father & spouse Granddaughter & spouse
    Daughter & spouse Grandson & spouse
    Son & spouse Grandmother & spouse
    Mother–in–law Grandfather & spouse
    Father–in–law Sister & spouse
    Stepdaughter Brother & spouse
    Stepson  
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  • Q16: Are Elected Officials and Department Heads allowed to do business with the County after leaving office?
  • A: Elected Officials and Department Heads are prohibited from knowingly conducting County business with a former elected official or department head that was separated from office or employment in the previous two years in which the former official is currently compensated as a representative of another person or entity. This prohibition includes any business matter in which the former elected official or department head was either personally involved or that was within his responsibility while an elected official or department head. This does not prohibit the practice of law before any court within El Paso County.
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  • Q17: May Elected Officials be hired at the County after leaving office?
  • A: Non–elected Department Heads are prohibited from knowingly hiring any person who has served as a county elected official in the previous year. This does not prohibit the practice of law before any court within El Paso County.
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  • Q18: How often do employees receive training on the Code?
  • A: County public servants must participate in regular training to learn about the County´s ethics standards and expectations and this Code of Ethics. All newly hired, appointed, and elected county public servants will complete training on these subjects in new hire orientation; all other county public servants will complete training on these subjects upon the implementation of this Code and any major changes to the Code; and All county public servants will complete training on these subjects biennially thereafter.
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  • Q19: How often do vendors have to take training on the Code?
  • A: Any vendor involved in a single procurement exceeding $50,000 must complete training on the El Paso County Code of Ethics. This training must be completed prior to submitting a bid or proposal, responding to a request for qualifications or proposals, or otherwise contracting with the county. The training must be completed by an officer, principal, or other person with the authority to bind the vendor. The certification of completed training on the Ethics Code issued by the County Human Resources Department is valid for twelve (12) months from the date of completion. A list of those Vendors with a current certification of completion and the corresponding date of expiration shall be maintained on the El Paso County website under the Purchasing Departmentís Current List of Training Certified Bidders. This training requirement does not apply to emergency purchases.
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  • Q20: How often do lobbyists have to take training on the Code?
  • A: A lobbyist intending to meet with and/or lobby a County Officer or Department Head shall complete the annual ethics code training and registration prior to meeting with and/or lobbying a County Officer or Department Head.
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  • Q21: Can the general public take training on the Code?
  • A: Yes, it is available by clicking here.
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  • Q22: Can I request an advisory opinion?
  • A: Upon the request of any person covered by the Ethics Code, the Commission or its designee may issue a written ethics advisory opinion regarding the application of the Ethics Code to a specified existing or hypothetical factual situation. The Commission or its designee may not issue an opinion that includes the name of any person who may be affected by the opinion. The name of the person requesting the opinion shall be confidential.
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  • Q23: What types of sanctions can the Commission impose?
  • A: As per the Texas Local Government Code, Sec. 161.202.
    CIVIL PENALTY FOR DELAY OR VIOLATION.
  • (a) The commission may impose a civil penalty of not more than $500 for each delay in complying with a commission order.
  • (b) The commission may impose a civil penalty of not more than $4,000 for a violation of the ethics code adopted by the commission.
  • (c) A penalty paid under this section shall be deposited to the credit of the general fund of the county.
  • (d) This section is cumulative of any other available sanctions under this chapter.
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