The Board of Ethics is charged with providing ethics advice to County Government Employees and Public Officials concerning the Code of Ethics. If an official or employee has a question about whether or not he or she may engage in a certain activity or transaction, they may contact The Office of Ethics and Accountability (OEA) at (301)883-3445 and speak to one of the staff, or email OEA at firstname.lastname@example.org. They may also check the County’s Code of Ethics.
Requests for a formal advisory opinion may also be submitted in writing to the Board of Ethics at the Office of Ethics and Accountability, 9201 Basil Court, Suite 155, Largo, MD 20774. It should contain a complete statement of the facts, including requestor’s name, address and phone number, requestor’s official position, a brief description of his or her agency, commission or office and the nature of the question.
An official or employee may ask to receive a written advisory opinion from the Board of Ethics of whether a contemplated activity is permissible. After issuance, OEA will publish any such opinion in accordance with the County’s Code of Ethics. However, all identifying information about the requestor in the opinion will be redacted unless he or she consents otherwise in writing. In some cases, protecting the identity of the subject is not possible. Whenever possible, opinions are drafted so that deletions to protect identities are unnecessary. If the Board of Ethics finds that the privacy interest of a public employee or other person clearly outweighs the public's need to be informed about the Board’s actions, the Board may publish a list of opinions that have not been published with an explanation stating the reason why each was not published.
Prospective Behavior Only
Advice is only provided for something the requestor intends to do, not for behavior that has already occurred. Any information of past behavior provided in requests deemed to have been a violation of the County’s Code of Ethics or Ethics and Accountability Law may be used against the official or employee in any subsequent OEA investigation/referral or Board of Ethics enforcement action.
Appeals of Informal Advice
All informal ethics advice is provided by the Executive Director of Ethics and Accountability and/or OEA staff attorney. If an official or employee receives an informal opinion with which he or she disagrees, he or she may appeal that decision to the five-member Board. Instructions will be provided to the appellant upon request in the event he or she seeks to file an appeal.
Exemptions and Waivers
After receiving a written request, the Board of Ethics or if appropriate, the County Council, may grant persons covered by the Code of Ethics an exemption to or modification of the prohibitions of the Ethics Law, and certain procurement prohibitions if, in the opinion of the Board of Ethics, certain statutory standards are met. The Board may impose conditions appropriate when it grants an exemption or waiver.
The Office of Ethics and Accountability will publicly disclose every exemption or waiver granted by the Board of Ethics. If a request for a waiver is denied, the Board of Ethics may publish its response as an advisory opinion. The identity of any public employee who applies for a waiver is confidential unless and until the waiver is granted. If the waiver is denied, the Board of Ethics may reveal the identity of the public employee who requested the waiver only if the employee authorizes public disclosure or the Board of Ethics has cause to believe that the employee has engaged in the conduct for which the waiver was sought.