Councilmembers and Council staff are governed by the Code of Official Conduct, which you can download at this link. The Code of Official Conduct establishes rules concerning conflicts of interest, acceptance of gifts, use of government resources, etc.
Additionally, District employees (including the Council employees) are governed by the Government Ethics Act of 2011, which established the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (“BEGA”). BEGA serves as the primary ethics-enforcement agency for the District government. To learn more about BEGA, visit their website at http://bega.dc.gov.
BEGA also publishes the District Ethics Manual, which is available on the BEGA website.
Donations and Gifts
Pursuant to D.C. Official Code § 1-329.01, the Council may accept donations for the Council to “carry out its authorized functions or duties.” Under this authority, members of the Council may accept donations for use in their official capacities. This includes, for example, tickets to galas and receptions. It also includes various donations provided by other non-governmental entities (e.g., books).
To comply with D.C. Official Code § 1-329.01, however, which requires the maintenance and disclosure of “accurate and detailed records,” for a Councilmember or employee to accept a donation under this authority, the member or employee must do the following:
- File a disclosure with the Secretary before the end of the month in which a donation is accepted; and
- Include in the disclosure, the name of the donor, the estimated value of the donation.
The records of donations are posted once a month in a CSV and PDF format. For more information, see the Donation Disclosures section of this website.
Councilmembers and employees may from time to time receive gifts1 from outside sources. The acceptance of gifts by an individual are governed primarily by Rule III of the Code of Official Conduct. Please note, that the gifts rules for Council employees differ slightly from executive employees.
Pursuant to section 224 of the Government Ethics Act of 2011, each Councilmember and certain high-ranking employees are required to file a financial disclosure statement with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. To review these financial disclosure statements, please visit https://bega.dc.gov/service/financial-disclosure-statements.
Forms, Memoranda, and Training Materials
- Donations Disclosure Form (for more information, see Donations)
- Donation Agreement Form
- Statement of Recusal Form
- Memorandum to Chiefs of Staff re Donations (2013-06-05)
- Memorandum to Members regarding the Hatch Act Modernization Act (2013-01-08)
- Exit Memorandum for Council employees leaving District service
Important Advisory Opinions
From time to time, BEGA may issue an advisory opinion that has a significant effect on the Council. A selection of these opinions are below:
- Letters of Recommendation and Letters of Support (November 19, 2014)
Summary: This advisory opinion addresses the propriety of letters of recommendation issued by District of Columbia public officials and employees. Such letters may be for: (a) individuals who are or were employees; (b) entities that hold or held contracts with the District government, receive District grants, or are otherwise accountable to the District for the administration of grant funds; or (c) civic or business entities, individuals, or not-for-profit entities seeking support for their projects or endeavors in the District. This advisory opinion serves to provide guidance regarding the appropriate use of District government letterhead and/or official title or position on such letters of recommendation or letters of support by government employees and public officials.
- Constituent Services by Elected District of Columbia Government Officials (August 29, 2013)
Summary: This advisory opinion provides guidance, using fact-specific scenarios, regarding the ethical limits of constituent services performed by District government elected officials and their staff. This advisory opinion also provides a number of considerations, which elected officials should weigh when faced with any constituent’s request for assistance: (1) Consider the public interest; (2) Present only facts known to be true; (3) Document constituents’ requests for services and the action taken in response; (4) Follow constituent service practices in a consistent manner when dealing with the agencies; (5) Ensure power parity in agency interactions; (6) Avoid favoritism and reprisal; and (7) Avoid any action that can be seen as a conflict of interest or be used to establish a connection between soliciting or accepting a campaign contribution and providing a constituent service.
- ANC Commissioner Must Recuse Himself from Matters Relating to University at Which He Is Employed as a House Staff Member (July 10, 2013)Summary: Peter Sacco, ANC Commissioner for district 2A requested an opinion as to whether he should recuse himself from all matters relating to George Washington University since he also served as a GWU House Staff member. The Board concluded that the Commission should recuse himself, because GWU is the largest land owner in District 2A and it is likely that the Commissioner’s duties could have a “direct and predictable effect” on the financial interest of GWU
- Outside Employment–ANC Commissioner/Law Firm Associate Must Recuse Him/Herself When Has Knowledge Law Firm’s Client Has Matter Before ANC (April 19, 2013)Summary: An ANC Commissioner, who also worked as a law firm associate, requested an opinion to clarify whether he should recuse himself as Commissioner whenever one of the law firm’s clients comes before the ANC. The Board concluded that the ANC, as an elected official, should recuse himself of his duties when he knows there is a “direct and predictable” effect on the financial interest of himself or the law firm. Particularly, if one of the law firm’s clients stands to gain a financial benefit from the Commissioner’s service, vote, or support, etc.
- Council Employee Who Also Serves as an ANC Commissioner Shall Follow Council Guidelines on Recusal to Avoid Conflicts of Interest (February 28, 2013)Summary: Adrian Jordan, staff member for Councilmember McDuffie and ANC Commissioner for District 5A03, requested an opinion as to whether there was a conflict of interest regarding his service in both roles. Councilmember McDuffie’s office is assigned the Committee of Government Operations, which has purview of the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. The Board, concluded that a Council staff member may simultaneously serve as a ANC Commissioner as long as he/she abides by the guidelines set forth in the Committee Procedures Memorandum, which proposes a methodology to avoid conflicts of interest that may arise ; does not use non-public information procured in one role for the benefit of the other; does not engage in ANC activities on Council time; does not disclose confidential information obtained during the course of service for either role; or use Council resources to further their ANC candidacy.
- Donation of Services – Councilmember May Accept Donated Legal Services to Help Prepare Legislative Proposal for Council Committee (February 13, 2013)Summary: Councilmember David Catania requested an advisory opinion pursuant to section 219 of the Government Ethics Act of 2011. The Councilmember, in his role as Chair of the Council Committee on Education, received an offer for a donation of paid legal services. The issue was whether the Committee could accept paid legal services from a third party for the purpose of preparing a legislative proposal that would be in the Committee’s purview. The Board concluded that the Committee was permitted to accept such services, as long as there was an accurate and detailed record of the donated of services and the absence of quid pro quo or a conflict of interest.
For additional information, please contact the Council’s ethics officer, Nicole Streeter, General Counsel, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note, however, the Council’s ethics officer is not permitted to give advice to members of the public about the application of the District’s ethics rules. For such inquiries, please contact the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability at http://bega-dc.gov.