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50 State Chart: Ethics Commissions: Who Can Initia

Ethics Commissions: Who Can Initiate a Complaint?

11/1/2013

These data are based on a survey by the Center for Ethics in Government. “No response” indicates that the commission did not provide an answer to the question.

 Who Can Initiate a Complaint?   

One of the most important functions of an ethics commission is dealing with complaints of violations of ethics laws. Commissions vary on who can file a complaint. Depending on the commission, complaints can be initiated by the commission itself, individual ethics commissioners, public officials, staff, the general public or a combination. At least 44 commissions allow anyone to file a complaint, although some qualify the meaning of “anyone.” The Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance stipulates that a complaint must come from a citizen, while the Ohio Ethics Commission allows “anyone with factual knowledge” to file a complaint. In Missouri “any natural person” may file a complaint to the Missouri Ethics Commission, but to do so in Texas, an individual must be a resident or own real property in the state.

At least 42 commissions allow individual ethics commissioners to file a complaint, at least 48 commissions allow the  general public to do so, and at least 47 allow complaints from public officials. At least 46 commissions allow staff to file complaints, and in at least 29 commissions, the commission itself may file a complaint of its own motion. 

In the Office of the Indiana Inspector General and the Indiana State Ethics Commission, anyone can file a complaint with the inspector general alleging a violation of the code of ethics; however, only the inspector general may file a complaint with the ethics commission. 

Recusal

If an individual commissioner files a complaint, 16 commissions require the commissioner to recuse him or herself from the investigation. These include the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, the New Jersey State Ethics Commission, the Washington Executive Ethics Board, and commissions in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. Commissions in Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, the Alaska Legislative Ethics Committee, the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission, the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission, the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission and the Washington State Legislative Ethics Board do not require commissioners to recuse themselves from a case. The Alabama Ethics Commission and the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices are among the commissions in which hearings about complaints are conducted by an authority other than the commission, eliminating the need for recusal. The Florida Ethics Commission and the West Virginia Ethics Commission do not allow commissioners to file complaints. 

Commissioners on the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission do not generally initiate complaints on their own; if a commissioner wants to initiate a complaint and four other commissioners agree, then the process commences. In Utah, if it is determined that a commission member has a conflict of interest in relation to a complaint, a temporary replacement reviews the complaint. There is no statutory requirement or established procedure for recusal in the Nevada Commission on Ethics, the Maryland State Ethics Commission, or the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission.

Note: This chart shows selected statutes of ethics commissions. Some commissions that do not have statutory requirements may include them in their rules and regulations. 

 AL | AK | AZ | AR | CA | CO | CT | DE | FL | GA | HI | ID | IL | IN | IA | KS | KY | LA | ME | MD | MA | MI | MN | MS | MO | MT | NE | NV | NH | NJ | NM | NY | NC | ND | OH |OK | OR | PA | RI | SC | SD | TN | TX | UT | VT | VA | WA | WV | WI | WY |

Ethics Commissions: Who Can Initiate a Complaint?

 

 

Commission

 

Commissioners

General Public

Public Officials

 

Staff

 

Anyone

Commission can file its own motion

 

Statute

Alabama Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

X

 

§ 36-25-4

Alaska Legislative Ethics Committee

X

X

X

X

 X

 

§24.60.170(b) 

Alaska Public Offices Commission

X

X

X

X

 X

 

§24.60.170(b)  

Arizona

No ethics commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

X

X

§ 4-6-218

California Fair Political Practices Commission

X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 83115

Colorado Independent Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

X

X

Constitution, Art. XXIX Sec.5(3)(a); Sec.2(4))

Connecticut Office of State Ethics

 X

X

X

 X

X

X

§ 1-82

Delaware State Public Integrity Commission

X

 X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 5810

Florida Commission on Ethics

 

 X

 X

 X

X

 

§ 112.324(1)

Georgia State Ethics Commission

 

X

X

 X

X

X

§ 21-5-6(10)(A);
§ 21-5-7

Hawaii State Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

 X

X

§ 84-31

Idaho

No ethics commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illinois Office of the Legislative Inspector General

 

X

 

 

 

 

5 ILCS 430/25

Illinois Executive Ethics Commission X X X X X    

Indiana Lobby Registration Commission

 

X

X

X

X

X

 IAC 2-7.1.6-5

Office of the Indiana Inspector General and Indiana State Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

X

 

§ 4-2-6-4

Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board

X

 X

X

X

§ 68b.32b

Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

X

 

§ 25-4160

K.S.A. 46-255

Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

 

§ 6.686

Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 11A.080

Louisiana Board of Ethics

X

X

X

X

X

X **

§ 42:1141

Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices

 X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 1013

Maryland State Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

X

X

§ 15-401

Massachusetts State Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

 X

 

§ 268B Sec. 4

Michigan State Board of Ethics

X

 X

 X

X

 

§ 15.345

Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board

X

X

X

X

X

X

§ 10A.02

Mississippi Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

 X

X

 

§ 25-4-19(e)

Missouri Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

X

 

§105.957

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices

 

 X

 X

X

 

§ 13-37-111

Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission

X

X

X

X

 X

X

§ 49-14,124

Nevada Commission on Ethics

X

X

X

X

 

X

§ 281A.440;
§ 281A.150;
§ 281A.160

New Hampshire Executive Branch Ethics Committee

X

X

X

X

X

X

NH RSA § 21-G:31

New Hampshire Legislative Branch Ethics Committee X X X X X X NH RSA § 14-B:4

New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission

X

X

X

X

 

 

NJSA 19:44A-1 

New Jersey State Ethics Commission X X X X X X  NJSA 19:61-5.1

New Mexico

No ethics commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics

X

X

X

X

 X

X

§ 94-13(a)

New York State Legislative Ethics Commission***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Carolina State Ethics Commission

X

X

X

 X

X

X

§ 138A-12

North Dakota

No ethics commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ohio Ethics Commission

X

X

X

X

X

X

§ 102.06

Oklahoma Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 257:30-1-4

Oregon Government Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

 X

X

X

§244.260(1)(a), (b)

Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission

 

 X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 1108

Rhode Island Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

 X

X

 

§ 36-14-12

South Carolina Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 8-13-20

South Dakota

No ethics commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance

X

 X

X

X

§ 3-6-201

§ 3-6-210

Texas Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

 X

X

 

§ 571.122

Utah Independent Ethics Commission

 

 X*

 X*

 

 

 

JR 6-3-101 

Vermont

No ethics commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia

No ethics commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington State Legislative Ethics Board

X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 42.52.410, LEB Rule 1B

Washington Public Disclosure Commission

X

X

X

X

 X

X

 RCW § 42:17A.105

Washington Executive Ethics Board X X X X X X  

West Virginia Ethics Commission

X

 X

 X

X

X

§ 6B-2-3a

Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

X

 X

X

 

§ 5.05(2m)(c)2.a

Wyoming

No ethics commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total:

43

49

48

47

45

30

 

* The Utah Independent Ethics Commission requires that two or more members of the House of Representatives file a complaint against a Representative; two or more members of the Senate file a complaint against a Senator; and permit two or more registered voters to file complaints against members of either the House or Senate.

** Eight commissioners must first agree before referring for investigation

*** All complaints are filed with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics

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