Government Ethics - Jan 16, 2024

Christina Sivret (Executive Director, Vermont State Ethics Commission) testified on two draft bills in the House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday.

Chairman McCarthy requested that Sivret talk about the genesis of the two draft bills and the work that the Ethics Commission had done over the summer break. She noted that the issues these bills address have been brought to the Legislature over the past few years. Over the past year they have focused on a municipal code of ethics so that ethics policies had clarity and uniformity across the state. The Commission researched best practices in other states and held listening sessions with municipal employees and the general public. They also held several public and legislative hearings as well as a survey on the Commission’s website. Sivret commented that the survey was not scientific but they received over 80 responses.

She reviewed report by the Commission that a proposed a municipal ethics framework for Vermont. The Commission recommended the following for "immediate" action by the Legislature:

  1. Enact a uniform Code of Ethics applicable to all elected and appointed municipal officials.
    1. The terms and definitions should closely adhere to the state code of ethics.
  2. To assist municipalities in complying with a municipal code of ethics, ethics training should be required for all municipal officials subject to the code.
    1. The ethics commission should be designated as an approved training provider for the code of ethics.
  3. The jurisdiction of the state Ethics Commission should be expanded to allow it to provide confidential ethics guidance, advice, and complaint services to municipalities.
  4. Whistleblower protections. which already exist at the state level, should be expanded to protect those who raise ethics issues at the municipal level.
  5. Each municipality should appoint an ‘ethics liaison’ to coordinate with the Ethics Commission on training and the administration of the ethics code in the municipality.


The report contains a summary of codes from various states as well as the comments that were delivered from public outreach. It was noted that the majority of states analyzed have one or more of the following common attributes with respect to their municipal ethics framework:

  1. Municipal ethics are governed by state statute.
  2. In most states, the statewide ethics body retains an ongoing role in enforcing and interpreting the municipal codes of ethics.
  3. Municipal elected officials are usually subject to a Code of Ethics.
  4. Municipal appointed officials are usually subject to the Code of Ethics.

There are two draft committee bills being considered:

  1. 24-0461
    1. The purpose of the bill will be to create a uniform municipal code of ethics and repeal redundant municipal ethics law and require municipal officers currently in office to compete initial ethics training.
  2. 24-0229
    1. The purpose of the bill will be to require that certain county officers file financial disclosures. The bill would also create penalties for delinquent disclosures for any candidates required to file such disclosures.
    2. Additionally, the bill would grant the State Ethics Commission powers to perform supplemental investigations and hearings and to issue warnings, reprimands, and recommended actions regarding ethics violations. Other administrative changes are also included.
    3. The information required under ‘financial disclosure’ is as follows:
      1. Sources of personal income.
      2. Membership on any board, commissions or other entities that make decisions about the allocation or disbursement of state funds over the previous 12 months.
      3. Loans made to a company if the candidate owned more than 10% of that company and if the loan was to commercially reasonable and made in the ordinary course of business.
      4. Companies in which the candidate has an ownership or controlling interest in the previous 12 months that had business with the state or municipality.
      5. The full name of the candidate’s spouse or domestic partner.

The most important group that is involved in the discussion of a municipal ethics code is of course the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT). In a letter of support, dated December 8, 2023, Ted Brady (Executive Director, VLCT) wrote about the fact that municipal ethics expectations and accountability should be centered at the municipal level, that the state should invest in VLCT's educational capabilities to inform municipal officials about ethical conduct, and that the VLCT discourages the creation of a "parallel system" to hear and investigate municipal ethics concerns outside of municipal government or the existing judicial system.

McCarthy expressed his thanks to all who testified and for their hard work on the matter, indicating that this issue will be taken up again next week.



















Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate Volunteer Reduce Property Tax Burden


get updates