Back 

Ethics Commissions: Ethics Complaints Overview

Ethics Commissions: Ethics Complaints Overview

State Ethics Commissions

Ethics Complaints & Advisory Opinions

State ethics commissions enforce ethics laws for specific groups under their jurisdiction. They possess two important powers: investigating ethics complaints and issuing advisory opinions.

Ethics Complaints
Investigations of ethics violations often begin when a complaint, alleging that a violation has occurred, is filed with the state ethics commission. Each commission handles ethics complaints in its own way. Most commissions make complaint forms available online, although only a few commissions allow forms to be filed online. Who can initiate a complaint also varies by state. Some commissions require commissioners to recuse themselves from the investigation or hearings related to the case, if they were the ones to file the complaint. Ethics commissions generally publish complaints, although when a complaint is made public and what information is published depends on the commission. Many commissions have the authority to dismiss complaints, especially if they determine them to be frivolous.

Although the majority of ethics commissions are authorized to investigate ethics complaints, not all may prosecute complaints or levy sanctions if ethics violations are found. In these cases, findings of violations are generally sent to another authority, such as the state attorney general and inspector general.

Advisory Opinions
Ethics commissions also provide counsel to individuals under their jurisdiction by issuing advisory opinions based on real or hypothetical situations. This system helps legislators, lobbyists and others to understand and comply with the laws. In many states, an advisory opinion may constitute a defense against charges of an ethics violation, if the advisory opinion is not amended or revoked. The opinion also may serve as a defense against allegations of criminal action. Most ethics commissions make advisory opinions public.
 

 


Ethics Complaint Forms

Updated October 2013

This data is based on a survey by the Center for Ethics in Government. 

Thirty seven state ethics commissions make complaint forms available on their websites. Fourteen ethics commissions do not provide complaint forms online. Some commissions that do not offer complaint forms online do provide instructions on proper complaint submission procedure. 

The vast majority of ethics commissions require complaint forms to be delivered by mail or in person; these 44 commissions do not have a process for online-filing of complaints. Seven commissions - Alabama, both commissions in Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, both commissions in Indiana - accept online submission of complaints.

Ethics Complaint Forms: Are Forms Available Online? Can Forms be Filed Online?

Commission Is the Complaint Form Available Online? Can The Complaint Form Be Filed Online?

Alabama Ethics Commission

Yes Yes
Alaska Legislative Ethics Committee Yes  No
Alaska Public Offices Commission Yes  No
 Arizona No ethics commission   
 Arkansas Ethics Commission No  No

 California Fair Political Practices Commission

 Yes   No

 Colorado Independent Ethics Commission

Yes No, however

individuals may file by email if they 

submit a pdf with a signature. 

 Connecticut Office of State Ethics

 Yes No

 Delaware State Public Integrity Commission

No No

 Florida Commission on Ethics

Yes No

 Georgia State Ethics Commission

Yes No

 Hawaii State Ethics Commission

No No 

 Idaho

No ethics commission   

 Illinois Office of the Legislative Inspector General

Yes  Yes

Illinois Executive Ethics Commission

Yes Yes

 Indiana Lobby Registration Commission

Yes Yes

Office of the Indiana Inspector General and Indiana State Ethics Commission

Yes Yes

 Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board

Yes No

 Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

No No

 Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission

Yes No

 Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission

No No 

 Louisiana Board of Ethics

No  No

 Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices

Yes No

 Maryland State Ethics Commission

No No

Massachusetts State Ethics Commission

Yes Yes**

Michigan State Board of Ethics

Yes No, but signed and completed form may be filed via email.

Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board

Yes No

Mississippi Ethics Commission

Yes No

Missouri Ethics Commission

Yes No

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices

Yes Yes

Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission

No No

Nevada Commission on Ethics

Yes No

New Hampshire Executive Branch Ethics Committee

Yes No
New Hampshire Legislative Ethics Committee Yes No

New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission

No No

New Jersey State Ethics Commission

No No**
New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics Yes No

New Mexico

No ethics commission  

New York State Commission on Public Integrity

No*** Yes

New York State Legislative Ethics Commission****

No*** No

North Carolina State Ethics Commission

No No

North Dakota

No ethics commission  

Ohio Ethics Commission

Yes No

Oklahoma Ethics Commission

Yes No

Oregon Government Ethics Commission

Yes No

Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission

Yes No

Rhode Island Ethics Commission

No No

South Carolina Ethics Commission

Yes No

South Dakota

No ethics commission  

Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance

Yes No

Texas Ethics Commission

Yes No

Utah Independent Ethics Commission

No No

Vermont

No ethics commission  

Virginia

No ethics commission  

Washington State Legislative Ethics Board

Yes No

Washington Public Disclosure Board

Yes No, but signed and completed form may be submitted via email if signed.

Washington Executive Ethics Board

Yes No, but signed and completed form may be submitted via email if signed.

West Virginia Ethics Commission

Yes No

Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

Yes No, but signed and completed form may be submitted via email if signed.

Wyoming

No ethics commission  

Totals

35-Yes; 14-No 7-Yes; 42-No

** A complaint may be filed by telephone, via mail or email. Anonymous complaints cannot be filed online.

*** There is no specific form, however instructions are available online.

****Complaints are filed with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

 

Share this: 
New Members Welcome
We are the nation's most respected bipartisan organization providing states support, ideas, connections and a strong voice on Capitol Hill.

NCSL Member Toolbox

Denver

7700 East First Place
Denver, CO 80230
Tel: 303-364-7700 | Fax: 303-364-7800

Washington

444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 515
Washington, D.C. 20001
Tel: 202-624-5400 | Fax: 202-737-1069

Copyright 2014 by National Conference of State Legislatures