State Ethics Commissions: Powers and Duties

9/30/2019

All ethics commissions perform the same role of encouraging ethics in government, but the powers and duties of individual commissions vary.

Some states grant commissions substantial authority and independence, while others serve in a more limited or advisory capacity. Commissions might also have different combinations of responsibilities.

Commissions may have the power to issue subpoenas, judicially enforceable orders, make rules, conduct ethics trainings, or more. Powers may vary depending upon the issue and branch of government.

The following table provides a description of the powers and duties assigned to ethics commissions over state legislators by reference to commissions’ enabling statutes.

This table is intended to provide general information and does not necessarily address all aspects of this topic. Because the facts of each situation may vary, this information may need to be supplemented by consulting legal advisors. All content is up to date through 9/30/2019.

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Powers and Duties of State Ethics Commissions
STATE OR STATE COMMISSION POWERS AND DUTIES
Alabama Ethics Commission

Power to appoint attorneys as legal counsel for the commission, and an investigative team consisting of a chief investigator and a maximum of eight full-time investigators with police power and jurisdiction to enforce laws pertaining to the operation and administration of the ethics code. Powers to subpoena witnesses and compel attendance, require production of documentary evidence, and compel obedience under penalty of contempt through the issuance of an order of any court of competent jurisdiction or judge thereof. Ala. Code § 36-25-3.

 

Duties include: prescribing forms and guidelines for disclosure statements; accepting additional voluntary submissions; developing filing systems; publicly releasing filings; preserving filings; investigating statements and failures to make complete disclosures; reporting law violations to law-enforcement; issuing advisory opinions based on real or hypothetical circumstances; initiating educational programs; promulgating and enforcing rules necessary to carry out legislative duties. Ala. Code § 36-25-4. Must also provide for and administer annual training programs on ethics laws for legislators and lobbyists. Ala. Code § 36-25-4.2. Duty of confidentiality regarding any statement, evidence, investigatory activity, or information received from a complainant, witness, or others, except as necessary to permit the sharing of information and evidence with the Attorney General or a district attorney. May not investigate an anonymous, non-verifiable or non-credible complaint. Additional process requirements are proscribed by Ala. Code § 36-25-4. Additional duties and responsibilities related to campaign disclosures not strictly related to legislative ethics at Ala. Code § 36-25-4.

Alaska

Alaska Select Committee on Legislative Ethics: Generally, handles issues related to legislative ethics.

 

May contract for professional services and employ staff as necessary. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 24.60.130. Authority over proceedings concerning conduct by a member, employee or former employee or member of the senate, house, or a person employed by a member or committee of either chamber. Committee may issue advisory opinions. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 24.60.140. May also endorse legislation when necessary to promote and maintain standards of ethical conduct, subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony related to matters before the committee, and examine documentary evidence. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 24.60.150. Duties include: adopting procedures to facilitate the receipt of inquiries and rendering of opinions; publishing annual summaries with redactions necessary to protect any required confidential information; publishing legislative ethics informational materials; teaching biannual ethics courses. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 24.60.150.

 

Alaska Public Offices Commission: Generally, handles issues related to political finance and communications.

 

Duties include: develop and provide forms for reports; prepare and publish manuals; receive reports and statements; compile and maintain all filed reports and statements; summarize reports filed; notify all persons if delinquent in filing reports and statements; examine, investigate, and compare all reports, statements, and actions; prepare and publish biennial reports regarding commission activities; adopt regulations necessary for implementation; consider requests for advisory opinions. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 15.13.030. May issue subpoenas, administer oaths, hold hearings, and conduct investigations. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 15.13.045.

Arizona No ethics commission. Filings are on a form prescribed and accepted by the secretary of state. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-444.
Arkansas Ethics Commission Authority includes: promulgate rules to implement and administer laws under several specific ethics-related statutory sections, including investigative and disciplinary procedures and proceedings; issue advisory opinions and guidelines; render findings and take disciplinary action upon submission of a complaint; subpoena any person or records and take sworn statements; conduct hearings; hire staff and retain counsel; file suit, without a fee, to obtain a judgment for a fine or enforce an order of the commission. Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-217. Must keep a record of its investigations, inquiries, and proceedings. Duty to investigate complaints, notify persons under investigation of the nature of the allegation, and dismiss frivolous complaints. May sanction complainants in the event of frivolous complaints. Upon a violation, Commission may issue a public letter of caution, warning or reprimand, or impose a fine of $50 to $2,000 for negligent for an intentional violation and report its finding to proper law enforcement authorities. Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-218.
California Fair Political Practices Commission

Shall appoint and discharge officers, counsel and employees, fix compensation and prescribe duties. Cal. Gov't Code § 83107. Power to adopt, amend, and rescind rules and regulations to carry out duties and govern procedures. Cal. Gov't Code § 83112.

 

Duties include: prescribe forms for reports, statements, notices, and other documents; publish manuals and instructions; provide administrative assistance related to legislative ethics; maintain central file of campaign contributions and expenditure ordinances; annually publish booklet of information pertinent to interpretation and enforcement of ethics laws. Cal. Gov't Code § 83113. Must investigate possible violations relating to any agency, official, election, lobbyist, or legislative or administrative action. Cal. Gov't Code § 83115. May hold a hearing if there is probable cause of a violation, and upon a finding of a violation, may require the violator to: cease and desist the violation; file any reports, statements or other documents or information, and; pay a monetary penalty of up to $5,000. Must publish a statement declaring that no violation has occurred upon such a finding. $5,000) per violation to the General Fund of the state. When the Commission determines that no violation has occurred. Cal. Gov't Code § 83116. Also maintains subpoena powers. Cal. Gov't Code § 83118.

 

May give advisory opinions, which protects against penalties for good faith reliance on an advisory opinion. Cal. Gov't Code § 83114. Commission may accept grants, contributions and appropriations, contract for services, and employ legal counsel. Cal. Gov't Code § 83117.

Colorado Independent Ethics Commission

Purpose of the Commission shall be to hear complaints, issue findings, assess penalties, and issue advisory opinions, on ethics issues. Authority to adopt reasonable rules necessary to administer and enforce standards of conduct and reporting requirements. Colo. Const. art. XXIX, § 5 & Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 24-18.5-101. Duties: accept written complaints for alleged failure to comply with standards of conduct or reporting requirements; may dismiss and deem confidential frivolous complains without a public hearing; shall investigate, hold public hearings, and render findings for each non-frivolous complaint; may assess penalties for violations; discretion regarding evidentiary standards; power to subpoena documents and witnesses; may submit advisory opinions by request. Colo. Const. art. XXIX, § 5 & Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 24-18.5-101.

Connecticut Office of State Ethics

Shall retain general council, ethics enforcement officer and other staff as hired by the executive director. May conduct hearings or preliminary investigations to ascertain the facts of any matter before the board. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-80 & 1-82. Shall designate 10 judge trial referees to preside over hearings and make probable cause findings following any ethics investigation. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-80e. Shall maintain a legal division to provide legal advice on matters before the board and represent when the board is a party. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-81. Must establish and administer mandatory ethics training for legislators. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-81c.

 

Duty to compile and maintain index of all reports, advisory opinions, informal staff letters, memoranda, and statements filed by and with the Office of State Ethics; permanently preserve advisory opinions and informal staff letters, preserve for 5 years statements and reports filed by and with the board. Must provide yearly ethics trainings for state employees. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-81. Shall develop a plain language summary of state ethics laws concerning bids or proposals for state contracts and for state contractors. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-81b. Powers include: render and publish advisory opinions in the Connecticut Law Journal that provides a defense in cases of good faith reliance; respond to inquiries and provide verbal or informal advice; make legislative recommendations; enter into contractual agreements as necessary; adopt regulations. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-81. Upon finding a violation, the board may order the violator to: cease and desist the violation, file any information as required, and pay a civil penalty of no more than $10,000. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-88.

Delaware State Public Integrity Commission

Duties of Commission Counsel: assist in preparing and publishing manuals and guides, seminars and workshops, and educating individuals about ethics rules; provide legal counsel to the Commission; review information relating to potential ethics violations; investigate prima facia violations of ethics rules and refer to law enforcement upon a finding of probable cause by the Commission; prosecute disciplinary proceedings upon a finding of probable cause; assist in drafting educational materials, waiver decisions and advisory opinions; maintain permanent records. Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 5808A

 

Powers and duties of the Commission: propose conduct rules to the legislature; issue written advisory opinions upon request; refer and investigate alleged violations; recommend resolutions, including disciplinary actions as appropriate after finding a violation occurred; may dismiss frivolous complaints; maintain records of proceedings while complying with confidentiality requirements; establish procedural rules; subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take evidence and subpoena evidence; prescribe forms for documents required by law and may allow electronic filing; publish manuals and compliance guides; provide assistance to state agencies, employees and officials in administering ethics laws; prepare annual reports describing yearly activities; appoint an attorney as Commission Counsel; request agency assistance as needed; contract for services if necessary; administer and implement financial disclosure provisions; implement and administer lobbyist regulation provisions. Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 5809.

 

Commission may refer complaints to Commission Counsel for investigation of alleged ethics violations. For persons charged and deemed to have committed a violation, Commission may: issue written reprimand or censure offending conduct; remove, suspend, demote or take other appropriate disciplinary action regarding state employee or officer; recommend removal from office. Duty to disclose exculpatory evidence. Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 5810. In appeals of Commission actions, burden of proof lies with the appellant. Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 5810A.

District of Columbia Board of Ethics and Government Accountability

Duties include: administering and enforcing the Code of Conduct; receive, investigate, and adjudicate alleged violations; conduct mandatory trainings; produce training materials; produce a plain language ethics guide; issue rules and regulations; establish a confidential hotline for information relating to ethics issues or administration; conduct a detailed best practices assessment of guidelines and requirements for state employees and public officials. D.C. Code Ann. § 1-1162.02.

 

Authority to conduct preliminary investigations, formal investigations, and hearings related to code of conduct violations. D.C. Code Ann. § 1-1162.09.

Florida Commission on Ethics

Power to conduct investigations and make public reports on all complaints concerning breach of public trust by public officers or employees. Fla. Const. art. II, § 8 & Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.320.

 

Duty to receive and investigate complaints of the ethics code or any other breach of the public trust, including investigation of all facts and parties materially relevant. Upon completion of any investigation, shall make a finding and public report as to whether a violation occurred or any other breach of the public trust was committed. If a violation occurred, shall recommend appropriate action to the agency or official having power to impose any provided penalty. May issue advisory opinions. Power to subpoena, audit and investigate. May recommend judicial proceedings in the name of the state against any executive or administrative officer to enforce ethics compliance. May request assistance of other agencies in the discharge of duties, and may prepare materials to assist persons in complying with ethics rules. Authorized to make rules necessary to carry out duties. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.322.

Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission

Powers include: contract with other agencies or persons as necessary to carry out duties and responsibilities; cooperate with and secure cooperation of every department, agency, or instrumentality of the state government; employ staff as needed; issue subpoenas; institute and prosecute actions in superior courts, in its own name, seeking to enjoin or restrain any ethics violation; adopt any rules and regulations necessary and appropriate. Shall not require the reporting or disclosure of more information on any report than is expressly required to be reported or disclosed by statute. Ga. Code Ann. § 21-5-6.

 

Duties include: prescribe ethics forms; prepare and publish a manual with uniform methods of accounting and reporting; accept and file any information supplied; develop a filing, coding, and cross-indexing system consistent with the purposes of this chapter; prepare and publish reports and technical studies; provide for public dissemination of summaries and reports; determine if required statements and reports have been filed and whether they conform to all requirements; investigate alleged violations; conduct preliminary investigations; dismiss frivolous complaints; conduct hearings and formal investigations upon finding probable cause a violation has occurred; report suspected violations of law to appropriate law enforcement authorities; issue upon request advisory opinions; issue orders directing compliance with ethics rules; issue penalties not to exceed $1,000 per violation, not to exceed $10,000 for a second occurrence of a violation of the same provision, and not to exceed $25,000 for each third or subsequent violation of the same provision. Penalties recoverable by a civil action brought in the name of the commission. Duties also include: make public conclusions that a violation has occurred and the nature of each violation; petition the local superior court to enforce orders in connection with a hearing; issue annual fiscal reports to the legislature and Governor; prepare annual reports for each filer; publish or print electronically overall lobbyist spending by category; provide and conduct semiannual trainings; award attorneys’ fees to the victims of frivolous complaints; issue warning letters to persons who have not filed all required statements. Ga. Code Ann. § 21-5-6.

 

Shall not initiate investigations or inquiries unless complaints are in writing and verified under oath that the allegations are believed to be true. Ga. Code Ann. § 21-5-7.

Guam The Commission shall have the following powers and duties: (1) prescribe a form for financial disclosures and establish an orderly procedures for implementation of related rules; (2) render advisory opinions upon request of any employee or former employee as to if a case will or does constitute an ethics code violation. Rendered opinions, until amended or revoked, shall be binding in subsequent charges concerning the employee or former employee who sought the opinion and acted in reliance on it in good faith, unless material facts were omitted or misstated by the employee or former employee in the request for an advisory opinion; (3) initiate, receive and consider alleged violations, initiate or make investigations, and hold hearings. (4) subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony relating to matters before the Commission, and require the production for records relative to any matter under investigation or question before the Commission. Shall, by formal resolution supported by a vote of five or more members of the Commission, define the nature and scope of its inquiry. (5) make, amend, and repeal rules and regulations as appropriate for the efficient carrying out of this Chapter. The rules and regulations, shall be adopted in conformance with the Administrative Adjudication Law, and shall have the force and effect of law. (7) It shall distribute its publications without cost to the public and shall initiate and maintain programs with the purpose of educating the citizenry and employees on matters of ethics in government employment. 4 G.C.A. § 15401.
Hawaii State Ethics Commission

Powers and duties include: prescribe forms for required disclosure statements; render binding advisory opinions; initiate, receive, and consider charges concerning alleged ethics violations; initiate, investigate and hold hearings; subpoena power, administer oaths, and receive testimony; adopt, amend, and repeal rules; distribute publications to the public and initiate and maintain educational programs; dismiss and assess attorneys’ fees in the case of frivolous complaints; publish annual summaries of decisions, advisory opinions, and informal advisory opinions. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 84-31. Shall also establish, design, supervise and conduct ethics trainings. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 84-43.

 

If the ethics commission determines there is sufficient cause to file a complaint against a legislator or employee removable only by impeachment, shall issue a complaint and refer the matter to the appropriate body of the legislature. Complaint shall contain a statement of alleged facts that constitute a violation and shall be a matter of public record. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 84-32.

 

The ethics commission may employ and at pleasure remove such persons, including an executive director, as it may deem necessary for the performance of its functions. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 84-35. May also request and shall receive cooperation and assistance in the performance of duties from other State entities. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 84-36.

 

Administrative fines for violations may be imposed, but shall not exceed $1,000 for each violation. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 84-39.

Idaho

No legislative ethics commission.

Illinois Legislative Ethics Commission

Duties include: promulgate rules relating the performance of the duties of the Ethics Commission, its powers, and governing the investigations of the Legislative Inspector General; conduct administrative hearings and rule on matters upon the receipt of pleadings, but not upon its own prerogative; prepare and publish manuals and guides, and oversee training of employees under its jurisdiction; prepare public informational materials to facilitate compliance, implementation, and enforcement; submit reports; make rulings, issue recommendations, and impose administrative fines; issue subpoenas; appoint special inspectors; conspicuously display on the Commission’s website the procedures for reporting an ethics violation. 5 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 430/25-15.

 

The Legislative Inspector General acts as an independent investigatory and prosecutorial body. 5 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 430/25-20.

Indiana State Ethics Commission

The Inspector General shall provide rooms and staff assistance for the commission. Ind. Code Ann. § 4-2-6-2. Inspector general serves in a sort of prosecutorial role. Duties include: initiating, supervising, and coordinating investigations; recommending policies; receive complaints; recommend legislation; submit annual reports to the legislative council on inspector general’s activities; accept submissions; prescribe and provide forms for filing statements; inspect financial disclosure forms; notify persons who fail to file; develop a filing, coding, and indexing system; provide interpretive and educational materials and programs. Ind. Code Ann. § 4-2-7-3. Powers of the Inspector General include: administer oaths; adopt rules; examine witnesses under oath; issue subpoenas; examine documents maintained by an agency; apply to a circuit or superior court for an order to enforce subpoena power;  prepare confidential reports summarizing investigation results; file civil actions to recover misappropriated funds; prosecute criminal matters as a special prosecuting attorney. Ind. Code Ann. § 4-2-7-4 & Ind. Code Ann. § 4-2-7-5.

 

Commission may: refer matters to the inspector general for investigation; receive and hear filed complaints; subpoena power; recommend legislation; adopt rules; accept and file information; and conduct research. Ind. Code Ann. § 4-2-6-4. Commission duties include: issue advisory opinions; reject frivolous complaints or complaints of a prima facie violation; refer complaints to the inspector general for further investigation; set public hearings; make findings of probable cause; review all conflict of interest disclosures, of which an index shall be maintained. Ind. Code Ann. § 4-2-6-4.

Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board

Board duties include: adopting rules; developing, prescribing, furnishing, and distributing necessary forms; establish filing procedures; review financial disclosures; receive all required registrations and reports; prepare and publish manuals and other educational materials; assure filings are available to the public; establish and impose penalties, and recommendations for punishment for ethics violations and rule compliance failures; determine when a person becomes a candidate; preserve reports and statements for 5 years; establish procedures for requesting and issuing binding advisory opinions; establish expedited review procedures; develop and operate a searchable website with access to statements and reports; impose penalties upon those who provide false information during an investigation. Iowa Code Ann. § 68B.32A. (Note: Jurisdiction is limited to executive branch members and candidates for office, not sitting members generally.)

Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

Commission may issue advisory opinions. Shall publish all opinions monthly. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-254. Any individual may file a complaint in writing. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-255. Shall dismiss complaints that do not constitute a violation on its face. Shall maintain confidentiality of filed complaints. Allegations that, if true, would constitute a violation, commission shall investigate. Must notify the attorney general of any apparent violation of laws administered not by the commission. Shall dismiss complaints upon finding probable cause does not exist for believing the allegations of the complaint, but if probable cause exists, the complaint shall no longer be confidential. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-256. In relation to hearings on alleged ethics violations, commission shall have the power to: administer oaths; subpoena witnesses and documents; take depositions. Commission shall enforce subpoenas through the authority of a district court. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-257. Shall maintain records of investigations, inquiries, and proceedings. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-259. Power to investigate or cause to be investigated any ethics matter, regardless of whether a complaint has been filed. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-260. Upon finding that a violation occurred, shall state findings of fact and submit a report to the chamber in which the respondent serves if he or she is a legislator, to the legislative coordinating council if a state officer or employee of the legislative branch. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-262. Penalties for violations that may be imposed include submitting a report with recommendations to impose censure, removal or disqualification. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-263.

Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission

Powers: may administer oaths; issue subpoenas; render advisory opinions; promulgate administrative regulations; prescribe and provide forms for reports, statements, notices, and other documents; determine if the required statements and reports have been filed and if they conform with all requirements; preapprove leases or contracts; compile and maintain an index of reports and statements to facilitate public access; preserve all filed statements and reports for at least 2 years; contract with any public or private agency or educational institution or individual for research studies, information gathering, printing and publication of reports, consulted, or other necessary purpose; conduct research and implement any public education programs necessary. Shall submit an annual report to the Legislative Research Commission on Ethics Commission activities, which may include recommendations for any necessary statutory revisions. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 6.666. May render advisory opinions when requested. Opinions are generally public, but shall promulgate regulations under which it may issue confidential advisory opinions. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 6.681.

 

Upon finding a violation, may: order a violator to cease and desist the violation; order a report or statement; issue a public reprimand; recommend sanctions for legislators; order civil penalties of no more than $2,000; revoke legislative agent or employer registration for no longer than 5 years; refer to appropriate authority for legal violations. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 6.691.

Louisiana Board of Ethics

Ethics Adjudicatory Board renders final decisions, but the Board of Ethics handles most other responsibilities. Board of Ethics shall administer and enforce ethics rules and orders with respect to public employees and elected officials, including final decisions of the Adjudicatory Board. In addition, the Board of Ethics, functioning as the Supervisory Committee on Campaign Finance Disclosure, shall administer and enforce ethics statutes, and the rules, regulations, and orders issued thereunder. In addition, the Board of Ethics shall administer statutes relative to elections integrity. La. Stat. Ann. § 42:1132.

 

Powers, duties, and responsibilities of the Board of Ethics include: adopt, amend, repeal, and enforce rules and regulations to carry out its provisions and purposes; provide for procedural rules governing the complaint, hearing, and penalty processes; draft and submit all proposed forms to the appropriate House and Senate committees for approval; select and appoint functions to an executive secretary; investigations, staff functions, and legal services conducted by staff of the Department of State Civil Service under authority and direction of the Board; may obtain investigative assistance from any agency; shall select an administrator to serve as general counsel to the board, provide office management, and perform other delegated functions; may conduct private investigations; conduct private and public hearings; render advisory opinions; shall receive reports from agencies and collect data; may consult with appropriate officials regarding conflict of interest matters affecting more than one agency; shall provide reports and information to various governing authorities; shall make recommendations for ethics code revisions and other related legislation; establish and implement policy to provide ethics information and material and conduct educational activities; shall publish all public charges, opinions, advice letters, and decisions, as well as an index of such publications. La. Stat. Ann. § 42:1134.

Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices

Shall adopt such procedures, rules and regulations as may appear necessary for the orderly, prompt, fair and efficient carrying out of its duties. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 1, § 1003. May call for the aid or assistance in the performance of its duties on the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Office of the State Auditor or any law enforcement agency in this State. When called upon, these agencies shall comply to the utmost of their ability. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 1, § 1006. Shall submit to the legislature and public an annual report disclosing activities and any changes necessary or appropriate regarding ethical standards. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 1, § 1007.

 

General duties include: investigate and make advisory recommendations to appropriate body of any apparent legislative ethics violations; administer and investigate any violations of requirements for campaign reporting and financing; conduct ethics seminar for legislators after the general election and before convening the legislature; administer lobbyist disclosure laws; administer and ensure effective implementation of election laws; provide enhanced monitoring and enforcement of election practices and reporting. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 1, § 1008.

Maryland State Ethics Commission

Duties: administer ethics provisions; create and provide forms for each required document; retain public records for each required document; periodically review adequacy of public ethics laws; review each filing; publish and make available information that explains ethics statutory requirements and enforcement mechanisms. Shall adopt model regulations for local governments and school boards. Shall provide trainings courses for legislators and regulated lobbyists. Shall submit annual and special reports to the legislature on activities. MD GEN PROVIS § 5-205.

 

Power to adopt regulations to implement ethics laws. MD GEN PROVIS § 5-206. May administer oaths and issue subpoenas. MD GEN PROVIS § 5-207.

Massachusetts State Ethics Commission

Powers and duties include: prescribe and publish rules and regulations; prepare and publish forms for required statements and reports; prepare and publish methods of accounting and reporting; make statements and reports publicly available; compile and maintain an index of all reports and statements filed; inspect statements for sufficiency and notify deficient filers; render advisory opinions; preserve all statements and reports filed for 6 years; act as primary civil enforcement agency for ethics violations. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 268B, § 3.

 

Complaints to the commission are signed under penalty of perjury. Shall notify attorney general to avoid overlapping civil and criminal investigations. May turn over evidence to criminal investigators. May conduct preliminary investigations, subpoena witnesses and records, and administer oaths. Upon finding a violation occurred, the Commission may order the violator to: cease and desist such violation, file any information, or pay a civil penalty of no more than $10,000 per violation, except for certain types of violations, which are capped at $25,000. Commission may file a civil action to enforce any such order. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 268B, § 4.

Michigan

The State Board of Ethics has no jurisdiction over the legislature or legislative employees, only executive branch appointments and employees. The function of the board shall be advisory and investigatory and the board is not empowered to take direct action against any person or agency. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.343.

 

Powers and duties include: receiving complaints of alleged unethical conduct by a public officer or employee, from any person, and to inquire into the surrounding circumstances, and make recommendations concerning individual cases to the appointing authority with supervisory responsibility over the alleged violator; initiate investigations of practices that could affect ethical conduct; hold public hearings; administer oaths and receive sworn testimony; issue and publish advisory opinions; issue investigative reports and recommendations and advisory opinions; if the Board recommends, the appointing authority shall initiate proceedings and take appropriate disciplinary action. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.345.

Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board

Duties include: annually report concerning action taken, names, salaries, duties of all employees, and money disbursed, and may indicate apparent abuses and offer legislative recommendations; prescribe forms for statements and reports; make available a manual setting forth recommended uniform methods of bookkeeping and reporting; develop a filing, coding and cross-indexing system; make reports and statements filed public; preserve reports and statements for 5 years; maintain and compile a list and summary of all statements pertaining to each candidate; prepare and publish reports as appropriate. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 10A.02.

 

May develop and maintain electronic records system online for treasurers to enter information. Board may issue advisory opinions, May adopt rules to carry out its purposes. May waive late filing fees or civil penalties for late filings upon a showing of good cause. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 10A.02.

Mississippi Ethics Commission

Attorney general issues ethics advisory opinions. Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-4-18.

 

Commission authority includes the following: investigate statements of economic interests and failures to file; impose civil penalties; request assistance from any other governmental agency or political subdivision in the conduct of any investigation; administer oaths and issue subpoenas; investigate any alleged violation of law by public officials or public employees; seek restitution or other equitable or legal remedies in civil law to recover public funds or property unlawfully taken; employ an attorney or attorneys to serve as a special prosecutor and file actions to seek civil remedies; publish notices outlining the jurisdiction and authority of the commission and the procedure for filing complaints and requesting opinions. Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-4-19.

Missouri Ethics Commission

Financial disclosure reports and financial interest statements are filed with the commission. Mo. Ann. Stat. § 105.955.

 

Duties and responsibilities: receive and review complaints regarding alleged ethics violations, conduct initial reviews and investigations regarding such complaints; refer complaints to appropriate prosecuting authorities; initiate judicial proceedings as permitted; review and audit any reports and statements required by campaign finance and disclosure laws, financial interest disclosure laws, or lobbyist registration and reporting laws; develop systems to file and maintain an index of all such reports and statements to facilitate public access; provide information and assistance in compliance; make recommendations regarding the ethical conduct of public officials and employees; render advisory opinions; promulgate rules; subpoena witnesses, take evidence and administer oaths; employ personnel; issue written opinions. Mo. Ann. Stat. § 105.955.

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices

Commissioner of Political Practices is responsible for investigating alleged violations of election laws. Mont. Code Ann. § 13-37-111. Also responsible for enforcing ethics complains for state officers, legislators, and state employees. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-2-136.

 

Powers and duties include: investigate filed statements and alleged failures to file or falsification of any statement; inspect any records, accounts, or books; administer oaths and affirmations, subpoena witnesses, compel attendance, take evidence, require production of records; determine if a matter would give rise to the appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest. Mont. Code Ann. § 13-37-111. May hire or retain attorneys properly licensed to practice in Montana. Mont. Code Ann. § 13-37-113. May adopt rules to enforce ethics provisions. Mont. Code Ann. § 13-37-114. May issue orders of noncompliance. Mont. Code Ann. § 13-37-115. Responsible for providing forms for reports and other information required to be filed, a manual prescribing a uniform system for accounts, and shall provide copies of election laws to any persons required to file reports. Mont. Code Ann. § 13-37-117. Shall accept and file any information voluntarily supplied. Mont. Code Ann. § 13-37-118.

Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission

Duties: adopt and promulgate rules and regulations; prescribe forms for statements and reports; prepare and publish manuals explaining the duties of all persons required to file statements; accept and file any reasonable amount of information voluntarily supplied that exceeds requirements; make statements and reports available to the public; compile and maintain an index of filings; prepare and publish summaries of statements and reports and studies; review all statements and reports filed; preserve statements and reports for at least 5 years; issue and publish advisory opinions; act as primary civil enforcement agency for violations of ethics and disclosure laws; provide current information or a list of persons owing civil penalties; prepare and distribute to the appropriate local officials statements of financial interest, campaign organization forms, filing instructions and forms, and others as appropriate. Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 49-14,123.

 

Shall conduct preliminary investigations. Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 49-14,124. Upon finding a possible criminal violation, shall refer to the Attorney General for consideration. Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 49-14,124.02. Upon finding a violation occurred, may issue an order requiring the violator to: cease and desist the violating conduct, file any information as required, pay a civil penalty of no more than $2,000 for each violation, or pay hearing costs if contested or a failure to appear. Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 49-14,126.

Nevada Commission on Ethics

Executive Director of the Commission shall: maintain complete and accurate records of all transactions and proceedings; receive ethics complaints and requests for advisory opinions; gather information and conduct investigations regarding ethics complaints; submit recommendations to the review panel regarding if there is sufficient cause to render an opinion; recommend regulations or legislation; conduct trainings; perform duties as required by the Commission. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 281A.240.

 

Commission shall appoint counsel. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 281A.250. Duties include: provide legal advice to the Commission; prepare findings of fact and conclusions as to relevant legal standards and the propriety of particular conduct. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 281A.260.

Duties of the Commission include: adopt procedural regulations to facilitate the receipt of inquiries, the filing of complaints or requests for advisory opinions, for the withdrawal of complaints or requests, to facilitate prompt rendition of opinions, and to facilitate discovery requests; prescribe forms and procedures for filing; investigate matters; inform the attorney general of noncompliance; recommend further legislation; publish manual that explains ethics requirements. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 281A.290. Has power of subpoena. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 281A.300.

New Hampshire

No legislative ethics commission. However, New Hampshire has an ethics committee that includes several public members and functions similarly to an ethics commission.

 

Authorized to: issue guidelines and advisory opinions; receive sworn complaints; investigate unauthorized disclosures of information by a committee member; review financial disclosure forms. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-B:3.

 

Shall dismiss frivolous complaints, which are sworn under penalty of perjury. May investigate upon a determination of probable cause that a violation occurred. May present formal charges and hold a hearing on complaints. If a violation is found to have occurred, may recommend a reprimand, censure, expulsion, or the denial or limitation of any right, power, privilege, or immunity of a legislator. Disciplinary actions against legislators subject to ratification of the commission report by the chamber that the violator is from. May refer to the attorney general for legislators who refuse to participate in proceedings. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-B:4.

New Jersey Executive Commission on Ethical Standards (also referred to as the State Ethics Commission)

Commission, in order to perform its duties, shall have the power to conduct investigations, hold hearings, compel the attendance of witnesses and the production before it of such books and papers as it may deem necessary, proper and relevant to the matter under investigation. The members of the commission and the persons appointed by the commission for that purpose are hereby empowered to administer oaths and examine witnesses under oath. Jurisdiction to initiate, receive, hear and review complaints regarding violations by any current or former state officer or employee in the Executive branch or a violation of the state code of ethics (jurisdiction includes the Legislative Branch of government, but authority may vary). N.J. Stat. Ann. § 52:13D-21.

 

State Commission of Investigation has the duty and authority to conduct investigations into, among other things, the conduct of public officers and employees. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 52:9M-2 & 52:9M-12.

New Mexico

New commission was established by a legislatively referred ballot measure amending the constitution to establish an ethics commission in 2018. Under the text of the measure, the "state ethics commission may initiate, receive, investigate and adjudicate complaints alleging violations of, and issue advisory opinions concerning, standards of ethical conduct and other standards of conduct and reporting requirements, as may be provided by law, for state officers and employees of the executive and legislative branches of government, candidates or other participants in elections, lobbyists or government contractors or seekers of government contracts and have such other jurisdiction as provided by law." Additionally, the commission "may require the attendance of witnesses or the production of records and other evidence relevant to an investigation by subpoena as provided by law and shall have such other powers and duties and administer or enforce such other acts as further provided by law."

 

Powers and duties of the commission include: develop, adopt and promulgate the rules necessary to implement and administer the provisions of the State Ethics Commission Act; establish qualifications for hearing officers and rules for hearing procedures and appeals. 2019 NM SB S 668.

 

Beginning January 1, 2020, the commission shall: receive and investigate complaints alleging ethics violations against public officials, public employees, candidates, persons subject to the Campaign Reporting Act, government contractors, lobbyists and lobbyists' employers; hold hearings to determine if an ethics violation occurred; compile, index, maintain and provide public access to all advisory opinions and reports required to be made public pursuant to the State Ethics Commission Act; draft a proposed code of ethics for public officials and public employees and submit the proposed code to each elected public official and public agency for adoption; and submit an annual report of its activities, including any recommendations regarding state ethics laws or the scope of its powers and duties, to the legislature and the governor. 2019 NM SB S 668.

 

Beginning January 1, 2020, the commission may: initiate complaints; petition a district court to issue subpoenas for evidence relevant or material to an investigation; issue advisory opinions; make available an ethics guide that clearly and plainly explains the ethics requirements; offer annual ethics training to public officials, public employees, government contractors, lobbyists and other interested persons. 2019 NM SB S 668.

New York

Legislative Ethics Commission shall: appoint an executive director and other staff as necessary; adopt, amend and rescind policies, rules and regulations; administer ethics statutes; specify disclosure statement procedures; promulgate compliance guidelines; make financial disclosure statements available to the public; review disclosures, or delegate review; render formal advisory opinions upon request; develop educational and training materials; prepare annual reports that summarize activities and that may recommend any legal changes; impose penalties for ethics violations; make public or refer back investigatory reports of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics; review Joint Commission reports and agree or not with the conclusions of the report, agree or not with the penalties assessed, and agree or not if further actions need to be taken; refer probable violations to other oversight bodies as necessary. Commission is not subject to open meetings requirements. N.Y. Legis. Law § 80 (McKinney).

 

Joint Commission on Public Ethics shall: review all regulations and opinions, address consistency of regulations and opinions, and with new statutory language, and the effectiveness of existing laws, regulations, guidance and ethics enforcement structure; report review findings and propose any regulatory or statutory changes and issue advisory opinions as necessary. N.Y. Exec. Law § 94 (McKinney).

 

Joint Commission on Public Ethics shall also: appoint an executive director and other staff as necessary; adopt, amend, and rescind rules and regulations that govern commission procedures, define permissible use of public service, and determine who is a public official; make forms for disclosure statements available; review disclosure statements; receive complaints and referrals alleging violations; advise and assist any agency in establishing rules and regulations relating to possible conflicts of interest; prepare reports summarizing activities of the commission during the previous year and recommending any changes in the law, rules, regulations and procedures governing the commission’s conduct; promulgate guidelines; prepare materials and design and administer an ethics training program; inspect all financial disclosure statements; notify of any filing deficiencies; conduct investigations; issue civil penalties for failure to file complete and accurate statements that are not to exceed $10,000. N.Y. Exec. Law § 94 (McKinney).

 

Joint Commission powers include: promulgate rules concerning restrictions on outside activities and limitations on the receipt of gifts and honoraria; administer and enforce ethics provisions; conduct investigations as necessary; administer oaths or affirmations, subpoena witnesses, compel attendance and require document production. N.Y. Exec. Law § 94 (McKinney).

North Carolina State Ethics Commission

Powers and duties include: provide reasonable assistance in ethics compliance; develop readily understandable forms, policies, and procedures; identify and publish a list of all non-advisory boards, the names of individuals under Commission jurisdiction; receive and review all filed statements of economic interest; render advisory opinions; initiate and maintain oversight of ethics educational programs; conduct a continuing study of ethics educational programs; propose changes to the governmental process and law; adopt procedures and guidelines; issue annual reports; publish annual statistics on complaints. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 163A-154.

 

May receive complaints; conduct inquiries and investigations; dismiss frivolous complaints; refer to appropriate law enforcement or governing authorities; hold hearings; take evidence and administer oaths; render inquiry results; recommend sanctions or issue rulings as necessary to protect the public interest. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 163A-156.

North Dakota In 2018, an initiated constitutional amendment by ballot measure was approved that, in part, established an ethics commission. The ethics commission may adopt ethics rules related to transparency, corruption, elections, and lobbying to which any lobbyist, public official, or candidate for public office shall be subject, and may investigate alleged violations of such rules, this article, and related state laws. The ethics commission shall maintain a confidential whistleblower hotline through which any person acting in good faith may submit relevant information. The legislative assembly shall provide adequate funds for the proper carrying out of the functions and duties of the commission.
Ohio Ethics Commission

Jurisdiction limited to the executive and does not include members of the legislative branch of Ohio. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 102.01.

 

May appoint an executive director and hearing examiners. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 102.05. May receive and initiate ethics complaints. Shall report findings to the appropriate prosecuting authority when a preponderance of evidence indicates the complaint is true and constitutes a violation. Shall report annually all activities. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 102.06. 

Oklahoma Ethics Commission

May employ an executive director and other staff, including attorneys, necessary to fulfill its duties. Okla. Const. art. XXIX, § 2. Shall promulgate rules of ethical conduct for campaigns for elective state office and for campaigns for initiatives and referenda, including civil penalties. Newly promulgated rules subject to approval of the legislature and subject to veto. Okla. Const. art. XXIX, § 3.

 

Power to investigate, issue subpoenas, and prosecute in the district court of a county where a violation occurred. Shall also enforce other ethics laws as prescribed. Okla. Const. art. XXIX, § 4.

Oregon Government Ethics Commission

Shall prescribe by rule forms for registrations, statements and reports and provide the forms to persons required to register and to file the statements and reports. Shall accept and file any information voluntarily supplied that exceeds statutory requirements, make registrations, statements and reports filed available for public inspection, and shall adopt by rule a filing system. Shall provide training on filing requirements and make statements searchable online. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 171.772.

 

May make inquiries or investigations with respect to registrations, statements and filed reports, and with respect to any alleged failure to file, and upon receipt of a signed complaint or on its own instigation. May issue or publish advisory opinions. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 171.776.

Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission

Shall employ an executive director, chief counsel and other staff as are necessary. Shall develop regulations that provide for a code of conduct to govern activities and ethical standards of its members. 65 Pa.C.S.A. § 1106.

 

Shall: prescribe and publish rules and regulations; prescribe forms and furnish for statements and reports required to be filed; uniform methods of accounting and reporting; accept and file any information voluntarily supplied that exceeds the requirements; inspect statements of financial interests for sufficiency; make statements public; compile and index filings; provide an annual summary of filings; preserve statements for 5 years; issue advisory opinions and written advice; issue findings, reports and orders relating to investigations of alleged violations; hold hearings, take testimony and issue subpoenas; make recommendations to law enforcement regarding the prosecution or dismissal of criminal charges arising out of a violation; prepare and publish special reports, educational materials, and technical studies. 65 Pa.C.S.A. § 1107.

Puerto Rico

Office of Government Ethics powers and duties: promote and formulate the ethical and moral conduct policies and programs for public servants; promote publication and understanding of ethical standards and values in public service; interpret, apply, and enforce laws and rules and regulations that establish specific prohibitions regarding the conduct of public servants or that govern questions of ethics, conflicts of interest, and filing of financial reports; promulgate regulations, norms or directives; issue opinions; issue orders as necessary to comply with its functions, responsibilities, and duties; resort to the Court of First Instance to compel compliance with orders; conduct audits and forensic audits on financial reports and recommend the action to be taken to correct, process or refer any detected violations; summon, examine, order, require, and obtain a copy of any document or proof related to any matter under investigation or in controversy before the Office; administer oaths or delegate such authority to any public servant; request from agencies any reports or data deemed necessary; evaluate reports of the Office of Comptroller that contain findings on any potential violation of this chapter; settle any controversy arising from this chapter; designate examining officials or administrative judges to preside over any adjudication of a complaint, who shall be empowered to issue any orders that may be necessary to guarantee the parties due process; establish and administer procedures to identify violations of government ethics, to prevent conflicts of interest, and to take or direct the measures authorized by this chapter, after having duly conducted investigations and hearings where the parties involved have an adequate opportunity to be heard and defend themselves; authorize the disclosure of information related to the operations or activities of this Office; refer to federal or State overseeing agencies, any findings that may point to potential violations of the laws; issue to appropriate agencies an order to withhold and deduct against any funds accrued by the public servant or former public servant who fails to comply with a final and binding administrative fine with proper notification; organize the Office and appoint or contract personnel as necessary to carry; delegate powers or authority onto any public servant of the Office, except for rulemaking; enter into collaboration agreements with public or private entities; solicit, accept, and receive funds, goods or services from any agency or person that is not subject to its jurisdiction; assign or donate funds or property to promote and observe the values identified by the Office and the activities of which encourage community participation; take any other action or measure that may be necessary and convenient to achieve the purposes of this chapter. 3 L.P.R.A. § 1855b. 

 

State Election Commission powers and duties: responsible for planning, organizing, structuring, directing, and supervising the electoral entity and all election-related processes that govern any election to be held in Puerto Rico, pursuant to this subtitle and its regulations. In carrying out this function, the Commission shall have the following duties, in addition to any others provided in this subtitle: study the election-related issues and design an integrated plan geared toward attaining greater efficiency, promptness, and resolution of every election-related issue, matter, and procedure; ensure that a record of all procedures, acts, and rulings is kept; approve the work plans and adopt bylaws and internal operating standards; address, investigate, and resolve matters or controversies submitted for its consideration by any interested party, except those regarding contributions and expenditures of political parties, aspirants, candidates, independent candidates, campaign committees, political action committees, corporations, unions, and elected officials, and to political campaign financing, which shall be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Election Comptroller; file any legal recourses necessary to carry out and enforce the purposes of this subtitle; periodically gather and evaluate local election-related procedures; require that all election-related files, records, and other documents be kept and protected; render an annual report of its work, achievements, and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislative Assembly; make a limited publication of a special revised edition of this subtitle, and the rules and regulations adopted thereunder, not less than 6 months before an election; determine the equitable distribution of election-related publications and materials; approve and adopt rules and regulations as necessary; develop a plan for affirmative action and approve the pertinent regulations to facilitate the exercise of the right to vote of people with disabilities; call meetings of the Local Election Commissions when deemed necessary; enter into collaboration agreements; promote the registration of new voters and re-registration of voters. 16 L.P.R.A. § 4012.

Rhode Island Ethics Commission

All departments and agencies within this state shall furnish advice or information to the commission and its agents as is deemed necessary or desirable by the commission to facilitate the purposes of this chapter. The director of administration is hereby authorized and directed to provide suitable quarters for the commission. RI ST § 36-14-8.

 

Powers: engage the services of an executive director and other legal, secretarial and investigative employees; make expenditures as are necessary for the effective performance of its functions; separately retain independent legal counsel; publish and prescribe rules and regulations; prescribe forms for filings; prepare and publish a manual with recommended methods of accounting and reporting; accept and file any voluntarily supplied information exceeding requirements; compile and maintain an index of all filings to facilitate public access; prepare and publish quarterly and annual summaries of filings; review all filings for completeness; preserve filings for 5 years; prepare and publish reports and studies; prepare and publish annual summary report on commission activities; number of disclosure statements filed; number of complaints filed, investigated and/or adjudicated; administer oaths and affirmations; educate public officials, employees, and citizens on ethical standards; create explanatory publications on ethical conduct expected of officials and employees. RI ST § 36-14-9.

 

Investigative powers outlined in RI ST § 36-14-12, and adjudicative powers at RI ST § 36-14-13. Commission empowered to remove any state or municipal elected official not subject to impeachment. RI ST § 36-14-14. May impose civil penalties not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 1 year. RI ST § 36-14-19.

South Carolina Ethics Commission Powers and duties: prescribe forms for statements; prepare and publish a manual setting forth recommended uniform methods of reporting; accept and file information supplied that exceeds requirements; develop filing, coding, and cross-indexing systems; make notices and reports available publicly; preserve filings for 4 years; review filings for completeness and accuracy; request the Attorney General initiate, prosecute, defend or appear in civil or criminal actions to enforce ethics provisions; initiate or receive complaints and make investigations; may dismiss and award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to the non-petitioning party if the petition is for an improper purpose, legal contentions are not warranted by existing law or are frivolous; conduct investigations, inquiries, and hearings; take testimony, administer oaths, and subpoena; issue findings of fact and conclusions of law and whether a violation has occurred, and if so, may take further action to remedy or correct the violation; penalties may include no more than $2,000 for each violation and forfeiture of any gains due to the violation; may issue formal advisory opinions; promulgate rules and regulations. S.C. Code Ann. § 8-13-320.
South Dakota

The State Government Accountability Board may review and investigate any person holding a statewide office, and employees of the executive branch, regarding any of the ethics issues listed under S.D. Codified Laws § 3-24-3. Board jurisdiction does not appear to extend to state legislators.

 

The board may establish its own procedures, issue subpoenas, administer oaths, and take sworn testimony. S.D. Codified Laws § 3-24-3.

Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance

Duties include: recommending principles of ethical conduct for consideration and adoption by the legislative or executive branches; develop filing, coding, and cross-indexing systems; make documents available for viewing online; review filed documents to ensure compliance; accept and file any information voluntarily supplied that exceeds requirements; prepare and publish reports; prepare and publish manuals and guides to facilitate compliance; administer ethics training; investigate alleged violations; preserve filings for at least 5 years. Tenn. Code Ann. § 3-6-106.
Texas Ethics Commission

Commission may employ staff, including executive director and general counsel. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.029. Commission shall administer and enforce ethics laws. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.061. May adopt rules through rulemaking procedures. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.062. Shall require each regulatory agency to develop rules limiting the acceptance of gifts or other benefits from persons appearing before or regulated by the agency. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.063. Shall adopt rules pertaining to technical and clerical violations. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.0631. Shall adopt by rule and publish a manual on uniform methods of accounting and reporting. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.070. Shall provide trainings. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.071. May set reporting or registration thresholds. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.064. Shall establish filing deadlines. Shall prescribe forms for statements and reports. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.065. Shall establish and make public an electronic database of statements and reports filed with the commission. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.066. May develop software and other technical solutions. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.067 & 571.0672. Shall review filings for compliance. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.069.

Shall provide reports to the governor and legislature. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.073. May accept gifts and grants. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.074. May delegate powers as necessary, but not voting, rulemaking, or advisory opinions. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.075. May contract with others, excluding any enforcement authority. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.076. May hold hearings and investigate matters within its jurisdiction. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.121. Power to subpoena witnesses and documents and make determinations regarding the likeliness that a violation occurred. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.137. Upon issuing a decision, and finding a violation occurred, the commission may issue and enforce a cease and desist order to stop a violation and issue an order requiring compliance. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.172. May impose a civil penalty of no more than $5,000 or triple the amount at issue, whichever is more, for a delay in complying with an order of the commission. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.173. May deny, suspend, or revoke lobbyist registration, notify regulatory or supervisory entities, issue civil penalties for frivolous or bad-faith complaints. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 571.173 to 571.177.

 

Texas Public Integrity Unit, within the Texas Rangers, is responsible for performing investigations into formal or informal complaints regarding an “offense against public administration.” Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 411.0253. Offenses against public administration include certain criminal offenses committed by a state officer or employee in connection with the powers and duties of state office, as well as certain election code violations. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 411.0252.

Utah Independent Legislative Ethics Commission

Commission authorized to conduct independent review of each complaint alleging unethical legislative behavior and determine if the complaint merits further consideration by the house of the member against whom a complaint is made. Utah Const. art. VI, § 10.

 

Joint Rules of the legislature, rather than statutory provisions, primarily define the powers and duties of the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission. Legislative and administrative rules are not included in this table.

Vermont State Ethics Commission

Created within the Executive Branch, an independent commission created to accept, review, make referrals regarding, and track complaints of alleged violations of governmental conduct regulated by law, of the Department of Human Resources Code of Ethics, and the State’s campaign finance law, to provide ethics training, and to issue guidance and advisory opinions regarding ethical conduct. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 3, § 1221.

 

Shall accept complaints from any source regarding governmental ethics or the state campaign finance law. Preliminary review conducted by the executive director, which includes referring complaints to relevant entities as appropriate. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 3, § 1223. Shall make trainings on issues related to governmental ethics available to legislators, state officers, and state employees, at least annually. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 3, § 1224. Executive Director may issue guidance and advisory opinions, and may consult with Commission members and the Department of Human Resources in preparing guidance. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 3, § 1225. Commission shall issue an annual report to the General Assembly regarding complaints made, guidance issued, and any recommendations for legislative action to address State governmental ethics or campaign finance law. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 3, § 1226.

Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council

Created as an advisory council in the legislative branch to encourage and facilitate compliance with the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act and General Assembly Conflicts of Interests Act and lobbying laws. Va. Code Ann. § 30-355.

 

Duties include: prescribe forms required for complying with disclosure requirements; provide guidance and instructions to assist in the completion of the forms; review disclosure forms filed; require all disclosure forms and registration statements be filed electronically; maintain a searchable electronic database of disclosure forms, available to the public; furnish advisory opinions or other guidelines, including informal advice; conduct training seminars and educational programs, including for local elected officials; approve orientation courses; publish educational materials; review actions taken in the General Assembly with respect to the discipline of its members for the purpose of offering nonbinding advice; request from any agency or local government assistance, services, and information; redact from public documents any residential address, personal telephone number, or signature; report activities and findings, including recommendations for changes in the laws, to the Assembly and Governor. Va. Code Ann. § 30-356.

 

Staff assistance shall be provided by the Division of Legislative Services, to perform duties as assigned by the Council. Shall employ an executive director, subject to confirmation of the Joint Committee on Rules. Va. Code Ann. § 30-357. Every department, division, board, bureau, etc. shall cooperate with and provide assistance to the Council upon request. Va. Code Ann. § 30-358.

Virgin Islands No legislative ethics commission.
Washington State Legislative Ethics Board

Legislative ethics board shall enforce this chapter and rules adopted under it with respect to members and employees of the legislature. Shall: develop educational materials and trainings; issue advisory opinions; adopt rules or policies; investigate, hear, and determine complaints; impose sanctions including reprimands and monetary penalties; recommend suspension or removal to the appropriate entity; establish civil penalty criteria. May: issue subpoenas; administer oaths and affirmations; examine witnesses; receive evidence; hold hearings; take testimony. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.320 & 42.52.390. Subpoenas are judicially enforceable under threat of contempt by the superior county of appropriate venue and jurisdiction. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.400.

 

Shall investigate filed complaints, and may request assistance of the attorney general or a contract investigator. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.420. Based on a preliminary investigation, board determine that the violation is unfounded, not within the board’s jurisdiction, that the violation is not material, or conduct further investigation, issue a determination that there is reasonable cause to believe a violation occurred. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.425. Upon a finding of reasonable cause, shall hold a public hearing on the merits of the complaint. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.430. Final board determination subject to judicial review. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.440. May refer complaints to an appropriate agency or law enforcement entity. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.450 & 42.52.470.

 

May impose penalties in the amount of any damages sustained by the state resulting from the violative conduct, a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation or 3 times the economic value of anything violative received or sought, and costs, including reasonable investigative costs. Shall be judicially enforceable. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.480. If the board finds reasonable cause a violation occurred, and penalty plus costs may be more than $500, the board may retain an administrative law judge to conduct the hearing and rule on procedural and evidentiary matters. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.500.

 

The Executive Ethics Board enforces ethics rules for statewide elected officers and all other officers and employees in the executive branch, boards and commissions, and institutions of higher education. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.360.

West Virginia Ethics Commission

Shall propose rules for promulgation. May initiate or receive complaints and make investigations and refer the complaint to the Review Board. May subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and affirmations, take evidence, and subpoena documents. Shall also: prescribe forms for reports, statements, notices, and other documents required by law; prepare and publish manuals and guides explaining the duties of individuals covered by this law; provide assistance in administering the act. May: prepare reports and studies; contract for services; require the Attorney General to provide legal advice, without charge, to the commission; employ additional legal counsel; request appropriate agencies of the state to provide assistance the commission may require; share otherwise confidential materials with appropriate agencies of state government. W. Va. Code Ann. § 6B-2-2.

 

Powers and duties listed above are defined in more detail in W. Va. Code Ann. § 6B-2-3 et seq.

Wisconsin Ethics Commission

Duties: promulgate rules necessary to carry out its duties; prescribe and make available forms; accept and file any related information voluntarily supplied that exceeds requirements; compile and index statements, and preserve for specified periods of time; prepare and publish special reports and technical studies; administer programs to explain and interpret ethics rules; compile and make filed information available; maintain a website where prescribed information can be posted and accessed. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 19.48.

 

Authority to: provide notice to any party subject to an investigation; issue subpoenas; bring civil actions; compromise and settle any civil action or potential action; sue for injunctive relief, a writ of mandamus or prohibition, or other legal or equitable relief as appropriate; investigate alleged violations; receive complaints; dismiss and penalize frivolous complaints; employ special investigators; upon a finding of probable cause, may authorize the administrator to file a civil complaint; contract special counsel; issue findings as to whether a violation occurred; refer potential violations of law to the appropriate district attorney; prescribe categories of civil offenses that aggregate no more than $2,500. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 19.49.

Wyoming No legislative ethics commission.