What is the purpose of the Utah Political Subdivisions Ethics Commission (the “Commission”)?
The Commission investigates ethics allegations against officials in any political subdivision in the state (i.e., mayors, county attorneys, city council members, special service districts, etc.)
What is the process the Commission uses to review a complaint?
The Commission uses a two-step review process. First, the Commission meets privately to determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, would be an ethics violation. The Commission also determines whether the complaint includes an affidavit from a person with actual knowledge of the alleged facts and if the allegations are frivolous or motivated solely by a political purpose.
Second, if the Commission determines that the allegations are legitimate, there will be a public meeting where the Commission may accept evidence and testimony. At the conclusion of the meeting, Commission members vote whether an allegation is proven by clear and convincing evidence. If it is, the Commission will make disciplinary recommendations.
Who can file a complaint?
Two or more individuals who meet the requirements set forth in Utah Code Ann. SS 11-49-501(1) may file a complaint when at least one of those individuals has actual knowledge of the facts and circumstances supporting the alleged ethics violation.
May I file a complaint anonymously?
No. The complaint must contain the name, address and telephone number of each individual filing the complaint.
May I file a complaint online?
No. The complaint must be in writing and mailed to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor at the following mailing address:
350 N. State St, Suite 220
P.O. Box 142325
Salt Lake City, UT 84114
See Utah Code Ann. SS 11-49-501(2)(a).
May I file a complaint against more than one person?
No. Each complaint must be filed against a single individual.
Do I need to include evidence of the ethical violation?
Yes. Each complaint must be accompanied by documentary evidence, affidavits, and lists of witnesses.
Specifically, what must be included in the complaint?
- The name and position of the political subdivision officer or employee alleged to be in violation of an ethical rule.
- The name, address, and telephone number of each individual who is filing the complaint.
- A description of each alleged violation of the ethical rules outlined in the Utah Code sections provided in the STANDARDS OF CONDUCT above.
- Include for each ethics violation:
- A reference to the section of the Utah Code alleged to have been violated (See the three Acts in STANDARS OF CONDUCT above);
- The name of the complainant who has actual knowledge of the facts and circumstances supporting each allegation; and
- The facts and circumstances supporting each allegation which shall be provided by:
- Copies of official records or documentary evidence; or
- One or more affidavits.
- A list of witnesses that a complainant wishes to have called, including for each witness:
- The name, address, and, if available, one or more telephone numbers of the witness;
- A brief summary of the testimony to be provided by the witness; and
- A specific description of any documents or evidence a complainant desires the witness to produce.
- A statement that each complainant:
- Has reviewed the allegations contained in the complaint and the sworn statements and documents attached to the complaint;
- Believes that the complaint is submitted in good faith and not for any improper purpose such as for the purpose of harassing the respondent, causing unwarranted harm to the respondent’s reputation, or causing unnecessary expenditure of public funds; and
- Believes the allegations contained in the complaint to be true and accurate.
- The signature of each complainant. See Utah Code Ann. SS11-49-501(3).
What must an affidavit need to include in order to be valid:
- The name, address and telephone number of the signer;
- A statement that the signer has actual knowledge of the facts and circumstances alleged in the affidavit;
- The facts and circumstances testified by the signer;
- A statement that the affidavit is believed to be true and correct and that false statements are subject to penalties of perjury; and
- The signature of the signer. See Utah Code Ann. SS 11-49-501(4).
Can a complaint be filed at any time?
No. An individual may not file a complaint during the 60 calendar days immediately preceding a regular primary election if the accused political subdivision officer is a candidate in the primary election or the 60 calendar days before a regular general election when an accused political subdivision officer is a candidate, unless the accused officer is unopposed in the election. See Utah Code Ann. SS 11-49-501(2)(b).
If I file a complaint and the Commission determines that it is incomplete, what will happen?
You will receive a letter informing you that your complaint is incomplete. You may file your complaint again when you have included the required information. If you choose to file an amended complaint, you need to do so with the office of the Lieutenant Governor.
If my complaint has been reviewed by another ethics commission, can it still be reviewed by this commission?
The Commission may not review a complaint that is simultaneously before a local ethics commission or complaints previously reviewed by this Commission or a local ethics commission.
Why are complaints kept private?
Ethics Complaints are kept private in order to ensure that individuals receive fair and impartial treatment by the Commission. Also, it is not the intent of this Commission to create a forum where an individual can damage another person’s reputation merely by making unproven allegations against that person.
What will happen if a complainant discloses the existence of a complaint or any information concerning the alleged ethics violation publicly before or during the preliminary review period?
The complaint will be dismissed without prejudice. However, a respondent may prepare a defense to the complaint, including contacting witnesses and taking other actions in preparation for review by the Commission. See Utah Code Ann. SS 11-49-502.
What constitutes disclosure of a complaint?
This is left to the discretion of Commission. Informing the media would certainly be considered disclosure of the complaint.
What happens if the Commission finds an ethical violation?
If the Commission determines that one or more of the allegations in the complaint were proven, the Commission will make recommendations to the political subdivision governing body and may also make a recommendation for further investigation to the county or district attorney.