Filing Number: 96-04
Subject: County Contracts
Keywords: advertising, appearance of impropriety, appointed official, bidding, compensation, conflict, contract, County official, employee, financial interests, impropriety, non-ministerial, outside employment, private business, public bid, public notice, vendor
Decision By: L. Susan Faw, Ethics Commission Counsel
Contact Email: admin@nccethics.org
 
Status: Active

Question:

          Whether individuals employed by the County may contract with the County to teach courses provided to the public.

Conclusion:

          If the individual is an "employee" covered by the New Castle County Ethics Code, he or she may contract with the County if the contract's value is less than $500.00.

Analysis:

           A County department asks whether individuals who are already employed by the County may contract to teach courses in a variety of subjects which the department offers to the public. Each contract would be valued at less than $500.00.
 
          The New Castle County Ethics Code applies to "county employees",1 defined as:
 
[a]n individual employed by the county who is responsible for taking or recommending official action of a non-ministerial nature with regard to: (1) contracting or procurement; (2) administering or monitoring grants or subsidies; (3) planning or zoning;(4) inspecting, licensing, regulating or auditing any person; or (5) any other activity where the official action has an economic impact of greater than [$500.00] on the interests of any person.2 3
 
          The Ethics Code bans covered employees from entering into any contract valued at $500.00 or more.4

Finding:

          Thus, the Commission concludes:
 
          A)          The Ethics Code does not prohibit non-covered employees from contracting with the County.
 
          B)          The Ethics Code does not prohibit covered employees from contracting with the County if the contract's value falls below $500.00.May 10, 1996

Footnotes:

1 The Code also applies to "county officials"., However, none of the individuals with which the department may contract are "County officials."
 
2 Section 2-172. Definitions. County employee.
 
3 The thrust of the Ethics Code is to preserve impartial decisionmaking in government. It is for this reason that the Code's jurisdiction is limited to those employees who, in the exercise of their official duties, exercise some degree of discretion.
 
4 Section 2-173(e) provides: "No [ ] county employee or his or her spouse or child or any business with which the [ ] county employee or his or her spouse or child is associated shall enter into any contract valued at $500.00 or more with the county . . . unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process, including prior public notice and subsequent public disclosure of all proposals considered and contracts awarded." Since the teaching contracts are not awarded "through an open and public process", this exception does not apply.