Article II - Obligations of Legislative Staff Members to Legislators
Section 1. A staff member demonstrates the highest standard of honesty and personal integrity in all of the staff member's work for the state legislature.
Comment: An honest staff member is consistently truthful and straightforward in all communications with legislators and other staff members with whom the staff member interacts. Direct and honest communication with legislators and other staff members helps to build a reputation of objectivity and credibility. A staff member understands that dishonesty in any aspect of the staff member's life, including in personal relationships with other staff members or legislators, calls into doubt the staff member's honesty in work and can also harm the legislature's reputation. An honest staff member does not use employment for personal gain or fail to give full effort for pay received.
Section 2. A legislative staff member is discreet in what he or she reveals about work done for any legislator and, subject to the law and in accordance with custom or policy of a legislative body or agency, maintains confidentiality of communications between the staff member and any legislator.
Comment: Discretion includes knowing when information is confidential and treating it as such, when carrying out a request must necessarily involve revealing some information, and when not to speak about nonconfidential matters both within and outside the legislative context. Because many legislative staff members work for more than one legislator, including working on a single project or piece of legislation for legislators with opposing objectives, it is imperative the staff member maintain a wall of confidentiality between work for individual legislators. The expectations of leaders that they be kept informed can place staff members in difficult situations. Legislatures must clarify the staff obligation to maintain confidentiality and to whom the staff member owes a duty in order to minimize conflict between duties.
Section 3. A legislative staff member provides candid advice to legislators on matters of policy and procedure within the staff member's areas of work responsibility.
Comment: Candor is the full sharing of one's knowledge, in the form of information and advice, with a legislator who needs it in order to make an informed decision. The ability of a legislator to make a good decision may be lessened if a staff member fails to give the legislator the full benefit of his or her expertise. Although the obligation to be candid is clearest when a legislator asks for information or advice, it may also apply when a staff member is not asked. Great care needs to be exercised when advice or information has not been asked for, but relevant knowledge should be offered. Once the offer is made, a staff member does not have a duty to advocate or seek another forum, unless advocacy is his or her specific responsibility. A staff member's duty to give advice and information to a particular legislator depends upon for whom the staff member specifically works. But regardless of this circumstance, a staff member is obliged to accurately inform any legislator of what services the legislator can expect from the staff member. The obligation to be candid may give rise to tension with the obligation to be discreet, but the obligations do not contradict each other. The distinction is that, in being candid, a staff member gives each legislator who can request the staff member's services the full benefit of the staff member's broad disciplinary knowledge and skills; in being discreet a staff member holds communications with legislators in confidence, when appropriate.
Section 4. A legislative staff member provides objective advice, information, and alternatives to legislators, independent of the staff member's personal beliefs or interests or the interests of third parties. A trustworthy staff member avoids activities that conflict with this objectivity or give the appearance of conflict.
Comment: It is not expected that a staff member will have no personal beliefs regarding public policy. What is expected is that the staff member will not let those personal beliefs be limiting, but rather will be open to alternatives and committed to being comprehensive and objective in presenting information and providing support in a professional manner. Certain activities can make it difficult for a staff member to be objective or can give the appearance that the staff member is not objective. In public service, this appearance can undermine public confidence in the legislature and compromise the effectiveness of staff members. Because it can be difficult to determine which activities give the appearance of conflicting with objectivity and reasonable people may disagree, staff members and their legislative employers have the obligation to carefully assess the effect of such activities as accepting gifts or favors from persons with an interest in the legislative process; of taking an active or leadership role in an organization that attempts to influence the legislature; and of entering into conversation about potential employment with an entity that has an interest in the legislative process. Similarly, staff members and their legislative employers must evaluate any outside employment by full-time staff members for its potential to compromise objectivity as well as to weaken diligence.
Section 5. A competent legislative staff member strives to acquire and maintain the knowledge and skills necessary to do the work the staff member is expected to do and recognizes when to seek assistance from others.
Comment: To support the legislature in its mission, staff members must be competent. A staff member needs to be aware of the staff member's kind and degree of expertise, to be forthright with legislators about what the staff member can do, to know when to seek assistance, and to take every opportunity to continue to learn.
Section 6. A diligent legislative staff member gives a hard-working effort to each work task, uses available time in a productive and efficient manner, and completes work in the timeliest fashion possible.
Comment: Diligence is the application of full effort to the performance of one's work. The demands of the legislative process often make it difficult for a staff member to be as careful and thorough as the staff member would like to be in completing a task. It may be appropriate to inform a legislator of the constraints of time or resources and to discuss what can reasonably be accomplished. The obligation of diligence requires that the staff member do the best work in the time and with the resources available.
Section 7. A fair legislative staff member treats all legislators with equal respect and provides services of equal quality and effort to all legislators to whom the staff member is responsible.
Comment: By virtue of their office, all legislators deserve respectful and dignified treatment by all legislative staff members. All legislators who have the right to ask for and receive services from a staff member expect that a diligent effort will be forthcoming and will not be lacking due to the legislator's political or religious beliefs, age, race, ethnic origin, sex, or physical ability.