Code of Ethics Code of Ethics

Use of City Property

No Use for Private Advantage
City property cannot be used for personal gain or the private advantage of any official, employee, other person, or a private entity.  City property includes city vehicles, equipment, materials, labor, services, and records.

Example:  An employee who sells cosmetics may not operate her business during city hours or using city equipment.  She may not send city emails to co-workers about the latest products, post flyers next to the elevator, or take orders during her work hours.

            

Example:  An employee whose personal vehicle is being repaired cannot reserve a city vehicle to drive to and from work while his personal vehicle is in the shop.

Official City Business
There is an exception that allows officials and employees to use city property when the City has a stated public policy that the use is for official city business.  City officials and employees are conducting official city business when they act in an official capacity and perform official duties on behalf of the City.

The city’s official business does not include an activity or event done solely for the personal benefit of an individual, such as a political campaign activity, a private business transaction, or an event sponsored by a private or non-city group.  To determine whether the use of city property or city funds serve a public purpose or is official city business, it is important to examine the purpose of the event, project, or expenditure, and whether it furthers a city policy or departmental mission contained in the City Charter, ordinance, resolution, administrative or executive order, or court order.

Example:  A member of the City Council may use the Atrium to host a reception honoring volunteers who serve on city boards and as neighborhood planning unit officers, but may not use it to host a fund-raiser for a private school without paying the rental fee normally charged the public.

Example:  An employee may not use a city-issued credit card to pay for personal purchases.  It does not matter that the employee intends to reimburse the City for the charges made.

No Use for Politics or Private Fundraising

City property generally may not be used to advocate any candidate for political office.  There are exceptions to this general rule when the property is made available for political forums where the forum is open to all candidates in a specific race or where the general public is invited to attend the event.

City employees may not endorse candidates, participate in political advertisements, or engage in political activity while on duty, wearing an official uniform, or using a city vehicle.  

City letterhead cannot be used to solicit donations or raise funds on behalf of a non-profit community group that is not affiliated with the City.  It may be used to solicit donations for the Mayor’s Cup and Mayor’s Bowl to benefit two city programs for young people, Camp Best Friends and The First Tee.

Representing Private Interests

Prohibited Appearances

No appearances before city agencies. City officials and employees may not represent private interests before any city agency while serving the City or working for it and in the year after they leave the City.

Example:  A City Councilmember may not represent a client of his law firm before a city department in a contract dispute between the City and the client, who is a city contractor.

No appearances against the city’s interest. City officials and employees may not represent private interests in actions that conflict with the city’s interests, in litigation where the City is involved, or in proceedings in municipal court where the complainant is the City or a city agency.

Example:  A member of the Citizen Review Board may not personally represent police officers in workers compensation claims against the City.

Special rule for City Councilmembers. Councilmembers may not appear before the Zoning Review Board on behalf of constituents or in the performance of their public or civic obligations because matters may be appealed from the board to the City Council.

Special rule for volunteer city officials. Board members may not represent their own business, clients, or other private interests before their own board, the city agency regulated by the board, or the board’s oversight department.  In addition, board members may not appear before their own board on behalf of a community group or in the public’s interest.

Example:  A member of the Tree Conservation Commission may not file an appeal before the commission challenging an arborist’s decision to permit the removal of trees to enable a city department to construct an underground tunnel.

Appearances Allowed

Appearances in a personal capacity. City officials and employees may appear in their own behalf before a city agency.

Example:  A member of the Board of Zoning Adjustment may appeal the denial of a building permit for a fence she seeks to build in her back yard.  She is disqualified from participating in the appeal as a member of the board and must file a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Report.

Appearances by City Councilmembers without payment. A member of the City Council may appear before any city agency on behalf of constituents or in the performance of public or civil obligations if the official does not receive any compensation or remuneration for his or her work.

Appearances by board members before the City Council. A city board member may appear before the City Council and its committees in their own behalf and on behalf of their employer regarding proposed city policies and legislation.

Elections

Board's jurisdiction over election issues
The Board of Ethics has limited jurisdiction over election-related issues. The Board's primary jurisdiction concerning elections is based on the Code Ethics provision that requires public property to be used for official city business, and prohibits the use of public property for private advantage. 

No use of city property
City property generally may not be used by city officials, employees, or candidates to promote their candidacy for office or during political campaigns. This rule applies whether the candidate is running for election to federal, state, or local office or to a city-related board. However, a candidate may use a city facility during a campaign if the property is a public forum open to all members of the general public, such as the City Hall steps, sidewalks, or public parks. City buildings may also be used for political forums when the forum is open to all candidates in a specific race or where the general public is invited to attend the event.

City officials, employees, and candidates:

  • Cannot use city funds for political campaign purposes
  • Cannot work for political campaigns on the city's time
  • Cannot use city equipment, vehicles, or staff to promote their candidacy for elected office
  • Cannot use the city's website, email directory, or city email addresses to solicit political support for a candidate
  • Cannot use their uniforms, badges, or vehicles in political advertisements or endorsements

City employees who seek elective office

  • The Civil Service Code has additional requirements of any city employee who runs for elective office while employed with the City. For questions about the Civil Service Code, employees should talk with their supervisors or consult the Department of Law.

  • City employees who run for Mayor, Council President, or City Council in the City of Atlanta must resign from city employment. (See City of Atlanta Municipal Code, Section 114-2 (a)). However, for purposes of Section 114-2 only, publicly elected city officials are not considered city "employees" and are therefore not required to resign from office following an offering to run for Mayor, Council President, or City Council. (See Section 114-2 (g))

  • Employees who seek federal, state, and county office or elective office in another municipality must file a written notification with their department head (Section 114-2(c)) and include (1) their intent to file as a candidate for office; (2) the office they intend to seek; (3) the government jurisdiction; (4) the date of filing for candidacy; and (5) the date of the election.

  • Employees may request a leave of absence and department heads may require employees to take a leave if the campaign is expected to interfere with the employee's duties or work hours. (See Section 114-2 (b)); see also 114-422 (leave of absence without pay)

  • Department heads may require a separation if the employee is elected and the department head determines that the elected office interferes with the employee's duties or hours of city employment. (See Section 114-2 (d))

City board members who seek elective office
City board members, persons appointed by the City to other public boards, and neighborhood planning unit officers or committee members who run for Mayor, Council President, or City Council in the City of Atlanta must resign from their city position on the date of their public announcement or filing as a candidate for office. (Code section 114-2)(g))

NPU meetings cannot be used as political forums
Neighborhood Planning Unit meetings may not be used for political forums or campaigning for city, county, state, or federal elective office.

Campaign Disclosure Reports

The City of Atlanta Municipal Clerk's Office is the filing agency for all local campaign contribution disclosure reports and state-required financial disclosure statements. Candidates for municipal office must file their campaign reports electronically with the Municipal Clerk's Office. To view or obtain more information on local campaign reports, please visit www.gaeasyfile.com or contact the Municipal Clerk's Office directly at 404-330-6500.

Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The Office of Municipal Clerk posted copies of campaign finance reports filed between September and December 2009 by candidates for Mayor, Council President, City Council, and the Atlanta School Board. Under state law, the clerk's office was the official filing office for these reports issued prior to 2011 and is the current filing office as of 2014.

 

 

Outside Employment

Incompatible Interests

The Code of Ethics prohibits officials and employees from holding investments in any financial, business, commercial, or other private transaction that creates a conflict with and adversely affects the official’s or employee’s duties to the detriment of the City.  It also prohibits officials or employees from engaging in or accepting private employment or rendering serves for private interests when the employment is adverse to and incompatible with the proper discharge of the official’s or employees’ official duties.

Example:  A plan review specialist may not operate a construction company within the City of Atlanta when he must submit plans to his agency for approval.

Example:  A police officer cannot work inside an adult entertainment club or represent the club in challenging a city-issued citation.

Example:   A member of the License Review Board cannot work as a real estate broker and represent restaurant owners seeking liquor licenses from the City.

Confidential Information Cannot be Used

Employees may not use confidential information acquired in an official capacity to solicit business for a private company.

Example:  Employees may not use internal departmental records to solicit plumbing work for their own private company when the records are not available to the general public.

City Property Cannot be Used

Employees may not operate their private business on city time or use city resources to operate the business.

Example:  An air cargo operator cannot use the department's password-protected software to market his services to other airports to improve their air cargo operations.  

Department Heads Must Approve

In addition, the Civil Service Code requires department heads to approve all outside jobs and imposes several other conditions:

  • The employment cannot interfere with the employee’s performance of his duties.
  • The employment cannot involve a conflict of interest.
  • The employment cannot involve the performance of duties that the employee
    should perform as part of his or her city employment.
  • The employment cannot occur during regular working hours.
  • The employment cannot involve the use of city records or equipment.   

Outside Employment of Senior Management

The Code of Ethics gives the board responsibility for approving any outside employment of persons who work as department heads, deputy department heads, and bureau directors.  The request must be in writing and state the type of employment, employer’s name and address, and proposed work hours.   

Doing Business with City

Generally city officials and employees may not do business with the City. There is an exception when the business is conducted through a sealed competitive bid process. This provision means that no official or employees shall own stock in, be employed by, or have any ownership interest in a company that does business with the City unless the business is awarded through a sealed competitive bid process or a request for proposal where the bids are opened and the awards made at public meetings. Board members may not do business directly with the board on which they serve, unless the business is awarded through a sealed competitive bid process.

Example: A department cannot purchase pins and key chains valued at less than $1,000 from a departmental employee through a purchase order that was not put up for bid.

Example: The Department of Aviation cannot hire a training company owned by a city firefighter to provide hazardous materials training at the airport when the bids were submitted in response to a request for proposal sent by the department to three companies.

Example: City employees may work as baggage handlers for a national airline that does business with the City when the employees have no direct financial interest in the company, their outside job is unrelated to their official duties as a city employee, and they are paid the same salary and benefits as other employees performing the same job for the airline.

Code of Ethics

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