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50 State Chart: State Ethics Commissions: When is

Ethics Commissions: When Is a Complaint Made Public?

Updated December 2013

Ethics Complaints Overview

This data is based on a survey by the Center for Ethics in Government and research of state statutes.

 At what point is the complaint made public?

Most ethics commissions—except the Louisiana Board of Ethics, the Mississippi Ethics Commission, and the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission—release ethics complaints to the public, but they vary on when they publicize complaints. At least four commissions make a complaint available to the public as soon as it is received or filed, including commissions in Alaska, California, Montana, and the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission makes a complaint public after determining it is not frivolous. Commissions in Florida, New Hampshire, and Nevada, the Alaska Legislative Ethics Committee and the Washington State Legislative Ethics Board make complaints public after completing an initial investigation to determine whether sufficient cause exists to pursue the matter. Commissions in Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon, Tennessee, West Virginia, and both commissions in Indiana require a finding of probable cause that a violation has occurred before making complaints public.    

At least 17 commissions in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky (both), Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey (both), New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin release the complaint after final decisions are made, individuals have been charged or final action is taken. Kentucky (both) also permits release of the complaint if the subject of the complaints publicly discloses the existence of a preliminary inquiry. The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission makes a complaint available to the public on the date that the complaint is mailed to the respondent. Commissions in Hawaii, North Carolina and Tennessee publish a complaint only after a hearing is held. In addition, at least 12 commissions including the Alaska Legislative Ethics Committee and commissions in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia release the complaint anytime during the process, if the subject of the complaint waives confidentiality.

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 |

 

Commission

when is a complaint made public?

Alabama Ethics Commission

§ 36-25-4.1

No complaints shall be made available to the public or available on the Internet until the disposition of the matter. In the matters where the complaint is dismissed or found not to have probable cause, only the disposition of the matter may be made available to the public or available on the Internet.  

Alaska Legislative Ethics Committee

AS 24.60.170(f-g)

A complaint is not made public unless the committee has conducted an investigation and issued a dismissal order or a finding of probable cause. However, only the dismissal order or finding of probable cause is released. The complaint itself and accompanying investigative material is considered confidential by statute and is not released. The subject has the right to waive confidentiality but this waiver does not waive the committee's confidentiality as required by statute.

Alaska Public Offices Commission

AS 15.13.380

 The complaint itself is available to the public once filed and received by the Commission.

Arizona

No ethics commission

Arkansas Ethics Commission

§ 7-6-218 (c)

After final action has been taken.

California Fair Political Practices Commission

§ 18360

Once a sworn complaint is received it is available to the public. Additionally, the California Fair Political Practices Commission must provide a copy of the complaint to the person complained of within 3 days of our receipt. Within 14 days of our receipt, the California Fair Political Practices Commission will inform the complainant (and confirm for the media) if the California Fair Political Practices Commission will investigate the allegations. Complaints can be resolved through staff letters or Commission fines. A letter finds either: no violation, no provable violation (advisory letter), a violation not warranting a fine (warning letter). These letters are posted on the California Fair Political Practices Commission website 10 days after issuance to the party complained against. 

Colorado Independent Ethics Commission

Colorado Constitution, Article XXIX, Sec 5; Rules of Procedure (7)(E)

The complaint is public once the Commission has determined that it is not frivolous. The constitution only provides for confidentially of frivolous complaints.  If the commission receives an open records act request, it must turn over complaints dismissed for any reason except frivolous.     

Connecticut Office of State Ethics

§ 1-82 (a)

An investigation conducted prior to a probable cause finding shall be confidential except upon the request of the respondent. Upon the respondent’s request only, the OSE may publish the findings and the accompanying summary. If a judge trial referee makes a finding of probable cause after a probable cause hearing, that finding must be made public within five days. This means that the entire record of the investigation will become public.

Delaware State Public Integrity Commission

§ 5810(h)(1)

If a violation is found or the person charged waives confidentiality.

Florida Commission on Ethics

§ 112.324(c)

At the point the Commission decides not to order an investigation, at the point the Commission decides after preliminary investigation whether probable cause exists, or at the point it is waived by the subject official.

Georgia State Ethics Commission

§21-5-1(7)

The complaint and any response to the complaint by the Respondent are public records after a copy of the complaint has been delivered to the Respondent.

Hawaii State Ethics Commission

§ 84-31 (b-f)

If after due diligence service cannot be effected successfully in accordance with the above, service may be made by publication if so ordered by the circuit court of the circuit wherein the alleged violator last resided. Upon the commission’s issuance of a notice of hearing, a decision of the commissioned rendered after a hearing together with the findings and the record of the proceeding shall be a public record.

Idaho

No ethics commission

Illinois Office of the Legislative Inspector General

5 ILCS 430/25- 430/52

(1)Final decisions rendered by the Commission pursuant to hearing. (2)Whenever a report of the Legislative General filed with the Commission results suspension of an employee for three days or more. (3) Other reports filed by the Inspector General within the discretion of the Commission.

Illinois Executive Ethics Commission

5 ILCS 430/20-95(d)

The complaint is never made public.

Indiana Lobby Registration Commission

IC 2‐7‐7-7

If there is probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, the procedures employed thereafter are public.

Office of the Indiana Inspector General and Indiana State Ethics Commission

§ 4-2-6-4(b)(2)(D)

A complaint remains confidential until there is a finding of probable cause by the Commission.

Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board

§ 68B.32B

A complaint is a public record, but some or all of the contents may be treated as confidential under section 22.7, subsection 18, to the extent necessary under subsection 3 of section 68B.32B. Information informally reported to the board and board staff which results in a board- initiated investigation shall be a public record but may be treated as confidential information consistent with the provisions of section 22.7, subsection 18. If the complainant, the person who provides information to the board, or the person who is the subject of an investigation publicly discloses the existence of an investigation, the board may publicly confirm the existence of the disclosed formal complaint or investigation and, in the board's discretion, make the complaint or the informal referral public, as well as any other documents that were issued by the board to any party to the investigation. However, investigative materials may be furnished to the appropriate law enforcement authorities by the board at any time. Upon the commencement of a contested case proceeding by the board, all investigative material relating to that proceeding shall be made available to the subject of the proceeding. The entire record of any contested case proceeding initiated under 68B.32B shall be a public record.

Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

§25-4161(e)

After a probable cause determination is made on the complaint.

Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission

(2)(a-b)

Upon final determination by the commission; or if the violator publicly discloses the existence of a preliminary inquiry, the commission may publicly confirm the existence of the inquiry and at its own discretion, make public any pertinent documents.

Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission

§ 11A.080(2)(b)

Upon final determination by the commission; or if the violator publicly discloses the existence of a preliminary inquiry, the commission may publicly confirm the existence of the inquiry and at its own discretion, make public any pertinent documents.

Louisiana Board of Ethics

§ 42:1141

It is not made public.

Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices

Title 1, Ch. 25 § 1013(3-A)

A complaint alleging a violation of legislative ethics is confidential and is not public record until after the commission has voted to pursue the complaint. If the commission does not vote to pursue the complaint, the complaint and records relating to the investigation of that complaint remain confidential and are not public records unless the Legislator against whom the complaint is made submits a written request that the complaint and all accompanying materials be made public.

Maryland State Ethics Commission

§ 15-407

Upon the finding of a violation or an admission/settlement of the complaint. The Respondent may authorize the release of any information by the Commission at any time, provided the authorization is in writing.

Massachusetts State Ethics Commission

§ 268B Sec. 4

Commissioners and staff are required by statute to keep all matters, including complaints and complainant identities, confidential. The allegations or existence of a complaint may be made public if a.) a matter is resolved publicly through a Commission-issued decision or through a negotiated settlement agreement that has been approved by the Commission; or b.) upon the issuance of an order to show cause by the Commission's Enforcement Division. In complaints that are resolved privately, the Commission does not confirm or deny the existence of such a complaint. Commission adjudicatory proceedings, initiated by the issuance of an order to show cause, are public proceedings.

 

Michigan State Board of Ethics

R15.5(9)

When the decision of the Board is rendered.

Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board

§ 10A.02(11)(d)

After the Board issues its findings.

Mississippi Ethics Commission

§ 25-4-23

It is not made public; all complaints, investigations, and investigative records are confidential until and unless the Commission votes to remove confidentiality.

Missouri Ethics Commission

§ 105.961

After Commission’s final action, the final disposition of the complaint is made public.

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices

§2-2-136(4)

As soon as it is received. Code of Ethics complaints are released on receipt of a waiver of confidentiality signed by the person the complaint is against.

Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission

§ 49-14,124.01

The complaint is made public if: a) the Commission after hearing or settlement agreement finds a violation has occurred; or b) if the subject of the complaint requests that it be made public.

Nevada Commission on Ethics

§ 281A.440

After an investigation is completed, a panel of two commissioners determines whether just and sufficient cause exists to forward the matter to the full Commission for hearing. If cause is found, the matter becomes public. If not, it remains confidential unless waived by the subject of the Complaint.

New Hampshire Executive Branch Ethics Committee

NH RSA §  21-G:31

If the committee conducts a preliminary investigation, the complaint becomes public at the completion of that stage.

New Hampshire Legislative Ethics Committee

NH RSA § 14-B:4

Except for sexual harassment complaints, upon completion of its initial review of a complaint (if the complaint is not dismissed at that stage).

New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission*

Following commission issuance of complaint, a formal charge by the Commission that a violation of the Campaign Reporting Act, Lobbying Act, or other statute within the Commission's jurisdiction appears to have occurred, and commences legal proceedings which may result in the imposition of a civil penalty.

New Jersey State Ethics Commission

NJ Comm. Rules §  19:61-2.5; 19:61-3.1

After final disposition

New Mexico

No ethics commission

New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics

Executive Law

§ 94-13(b)

When there is a final action by the Commission concerning the complaint  that can be publicly disclosed pursuant to Executive Law §94

New York State Legislative Ethics Commission

Legislative Law § 80

Complaints are filed with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, not the New York State Legislative Ethics Commission

North Carolina State Ethics Commission

§138A-12(n)

Once a hearing is held, all documents become public record. If no hearing is held, all documents become public when the Commission reports its recommendations to the employing entity of the subject of the investigation.

North Dakota

No ethics commission

Ohio Ethics Commission

§ 102.06(B); § 102.06 (C)(2)

Upon a prosecutor making a decision on prosecution or upon request by the accused person.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission

OK Stat. §51-307(J), (N)

All records relating to any complaint shall be confidential and not open for public inspection. However, if the appropriate authority decides to prosecute or take action, the respondent shall be entitled to a copy of any  report prepared by the Commission concerning the complaint and only  that material presented at trial shall become open for public  inspection.

Oregon Government Ethics Commission

§244.260

All case related materials and proceedings shall be open to the public after the commission makes a finding of cause to undertake an investigation, dismisses a complaint or rescinds a motion.

Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission

§ 1108(h)

Final orders are available as public documents, but the files and records of the commission  relating to the case, including identifying information, shall remain confidential.  

Rhode Island Ethics Commission

§36-14-12(c)(1), (3); §36-14-13(f)

After dismissal or following a final decision of the Commission.

South Carolina Ethics Commission

§ 8-13-320(10)(g)

All complaints are confidential until final disposition or until the respondent provides the commission with a written waiver.

South Dakota

No ethics commission

Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance

§ 3-6-202

1.) At anytime the alleged violator requests that it be made public. 2.) The date of the public hearing, if one is held.  3.) The date the Commission refers a matter to the general assembly its determination that probable cause exists to believe that a general assembly member has committed an act constituting misuse of office for public financial gain. 4.)Sixty days after the date the report of the Commission is issued with a determination of no probable cause, if a probable cause hearing is not requested. 5.) Sixty days after the date the Commission issues a finding of no probable cause from a probable cause hearing.

Texas Ethics Commission

§ 571.140

Proceedings at a preliminary review hearing performed by the commission, a sworn complaint, and documents and any additional evidence relating to the processing, preliminary review, preliminary review hearing, or resolution of a sworn complaint or motion are confidential and may not be disclosed unless entered into the record of a formal hearing or a judicial proceeding (except that a document or statement that was previously public information remains public information). However, an order issued by the commission after the completion of a preliminary review or hearing determining that a violation other than a technical or de minimis violation has occurred is not confidential.

Utah Independent Ethics Commission

JR 6-3-102 

The complaints made to the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission are not public.  At that level, no one may disclose the existence of a complaint or any information concerning the subject of the complaint.  If any information about the complaint is made public the complaint will be dismissed and may not be resubmitted.  However, once the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission has made a recommendation on proved allegations to the Senate or House Ethics Committees, then the complaint and the recommendation become public.

Vermont

No ethics commission

Virginia

No ethics commission

Washington State Legislative Ethics Board

§ 42.52.430; Rule (1)(f)(2)

Upon completion of its preliminary investigation, the Board will issue a public order stating whether or not it has found "reasonable cause" to believe there has been a violation of the Ethics Act. Any proceedings following a finding of reasonable cause (a hearing for instance) are public, but the board's deliberations on a complaint that do not occur during a public hearing and staff's written investigative results submitted to the board under subsection C(4) are confidential.

Washington Public Disclosure Board

RCW 42.17A.020

When it is received.  Once the investigation starts, the complaint is posted online.

Washington Executive Ethics Board

WAC 292-130-130(2)(a)

After respondent has been sent a copy of the complaint.

West Virginia Ethics Commission

§6B-2-4

It remains confidential until and unless probable cause is found at which point it proceeds to a public hearing. A complaint may be released if agreed to in writing by the respondent.

Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

§ 5.05(5s)

Conclusion of investigation under certain circumstances.

Wyoming

No ethics commission

*See New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission “Complaint and Final Decision” web page

 

 

 

 

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