Frequently Asked Questions for Legislative Ethics
1. Can a legislator vote on an issue where they have a conflict of interest?
Yes. A Representative is allowed to vote on any issue as long as they have disclosed a conflict of interest in a financial disclosure form. A Senator must file a financial disclosure form or declare the conflict of interest during floor debate or in committee hearings. (JR6-1-201(5) and (6))
2. Do legislators receive ethics training?
Yes. Every legislator must complete annual ethical training provided by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.
3. What behavior by a legislator is considered unethical?
Officially, the following behaviors would be unethical:
- Behavior that is prohibited by the Code of Official Conduct (JR6-1-102)
- A conviction or guilty plea to a crime of moral turpitude
- A plea of no contest or plea in abeyance to a crime involving moral turpitude
4. Okay, but what does that all mean? Can you give me some examples? (JR6-1-102)
- A legislator taking money or favors in exchange for support of a bill or an issue.
- A legislator threatening a state employee with harm or political consequences if they don’t support the legislator’s position.
- A legislator failing to disclose that a bill may benefit them financially before casting their vote.
- A legislator acting as a paid consultant for a company who frequently has matters before the legislature.
- A legislator who uses their position to secure a state contact for work instead of going through the state procurement procedures.
5. What’s a crime of moral turpitude?
This a legal term which basically means conduct that is dishonest or immoral. This can range from murder and robbery to crimes committed with the intent to defraud someone.
6. Who can file an ethical complaint against a legislator?
Two or more registered voters who currently live in Utah as long as one of those voters has actual knowledge of the violation. (JR6-3-101(1)(iii))
7. Is there a time frame for making a complaint?
The ethical violation that is the basis for the complaint must have occurred within the past two years. (JR6-2-201)
8. Can I file a complaint against a former legislator?
No. A complaint can only be filed against a sitting legislator.
9. Can I file a complaint at any time?
Yes, if the legislator is not currently a candidate for reelection. If the legislator is an opposed candidate in an election, a complaint cannot be filed within 60 days of the respective election. This is to prevent the use of ethical complaints as political tactic in an election.
10. Can I file a complaint online?
No. Complaints must contain original signatures of the complainants and must be accompanied by copies of official records or documentary evidence.
11. Can I file a complaint anonymously?
No. The complaint must contain the name, address and telephone number of those filing the complaint.
12. Do I have to provide evidence of the ethical violation?
Yes. Each complaint must be accompanied by documentary evidence, affidavits or a list of witnesses.
13. What happens after I make a complaint?
All ethical complaints are first reviewed by the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission. The Independent Legislative Ethics Committee will investigate the complaint. If any allegations in the complaint were proved, the Commission will forward the proven allegations to the Senate or House Ethics Committee along with a recommendation for action. The Senate or House Ethics Committee will then review the proven allegations and take action.
14. Will complaints be made public?
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.
15. What happens if the Senate or House Ethics Committee finds an ethical violation?
If the Senate or House Ethics Committee votes that an allegation has been proven, they can recommend censure, expulsion, denial or limitation of any right, power or privilege associated with legislative office or any other action they deem appropriate.