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HCPSS / POLICIES

Policy 2070 Implementation Procedures - Ethics

Implementation Procedures

I. Definitions

Within the context of these procedures, the following definitions apply:

  1. Attorney – Person admitted to practice law before the Maryland Court of Appeals.

  2. Filed – Received by the Ethics Panel.

  3. Party – Any person or persons named or admitted in a complaint, such as complainant or respondent. Any person or persons may be admitted as a party for limited purposes upon satisfactory demonstration to the Ethics Panel of the nature and extent of one’s individual interest.

  4. Presiding Officer – The chairperson of the Ethics Panel or other designated Ethics Panel member who may preside in the absence of the chairperson.

  5. Written Notice – Notification that is completed upon actual delivery or upon deposit of said notice in the United States mail, stamped, and addressed to the addressee(s) at the mailing address(es) provided to or appearing on the records of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) or the written documentation submitted.

II. Rules for the Ethics Panel

  1. Ethics Panel Structure

    1. A quorum consists of three members present. A majority vote of the Ethics Panel consists of three or more members present.

    2. The minutes will be reviewed for each previous meeting, excluding the names of any persons in cases or complaints.

    3. All cases and complaints will be numerically assigned.

    4. The proposed agenda for each meeting will be considered for approval with additions and/or deletions.

    5. An announcement of each meeting will be posted at the Howard County Department of Education building.

    6. The Ethics Panel will meet in accordance with the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

    7. All opinions and decisions will be in writing.

    8. The term of the chairperson of the Ethics Panel will be one year, and the term will run from Spring to Spring.

    9. The Ethics Panel reserves the right to hire an attorney in the event that the panel determines that legal counsel is unable to provide impartial legal advice.

    10. Lobbying Disclosure

      1. If any report filed under IX.C. of the Ethics Regulations contains the name of a Board member or employee or one’s spouse or dependent child(ren), the Ethics Panel will keep the report confidential until proper notification is made.

      2. Following written notice to the Ethics Panel of the inclusion of the name of a Board member, employee, or a spouse or dependent child(ren) in a report filed by a lobbyist, the Board member or employee will have reasonable time to file a written exception to the inclusion of the name.

      3. The Board may require submission of the written exception stated above in II.A.10.b.

  2. Ethics Panel Responsibilities

    1. All opinions by the Ethics Panel will be copied to the Board.

    2. An annual report on the activities of the Ethics Panel will be provided for the Board.

  3. Board Appointments to the Ethics Panel

    1. Legal counsel will advertise in at least one newspaper of general county circulation, the HCPSS website, and other media providing notice to the community.

    2. The Chairman of the Board will appoint two Board members to serve as a screening committee along with legal counsel and a Human Resources staff member.

    3. The Board committee will make recommendations to the Board for appointment.

    4. The Board will make the appointment in public session.

    5. When an Ethics Panel member’s term expires, legal counsel will recommend to the Board that the member be reappointed or that the position be advertised.

  4. Advisory Opinions by the Ethics Panel

    1. The Ethics Panel may require any person requesting an advisory opinion, or any other HCPSS employee deemed relevant to the issue presented in the request, to appear before the Ethics Panel to provide information.

    2. Panel members will refrain from making public comments concerning the individual or collective views of the Ethics Panel members, both while an application for an advisory opinion is pending and after a decision has been made. Only the Ethics Panel Chairperson will be authorized to respond to inquiries regarding the Ethics Panel’s proceedings.

    3. Opinions of the Ethics Panel are advisory and may be reviewed by the Board.

    4. Advisory Opinion Review Process

      1. A Board member, the Superintendent, or the subject of an advisory opinion may request that the Board review an Ethics Panel advisory opinion.

      2. A request to review an Ethics Panel opinion must be received within 30 calendar days of the date of the Ethics Panel’s written decision.

      3. If the request is approved by a majority of the Board, the Board will review the Ethics Panel’s advisory opinion.

      4. A Board member may not participate in a review if he/she is the subject of the request.

      5. The Ethics Panel will be informed if the Board decides to review an Ethics Panel opinion. A representative of the Ethics Panel will meet with the Board to explain its rationale.

      6. Upon Board review, an Ethics Panel opinion may be accepted, revised, or rescinded by the Board.

  5. Formal Hearings by the Ethics Panel

    1. All complaints presented to the Ethics Panel must be submitted in writing. After receiving a complaint, the Ethics Panel will meet within 15 working days to review the complaint.

    2. After a complaint is filed, and until there is a final decision made by the Board, all actions regarding a complaint will be treated confidentially.

    3. The Ethics Panel, its staff, the complainant, and the respondent will not disclose any information relating to the complaint, including the identity of the complainant and respondent, except that:

      1. The Ethics Panel may release information at any time if a release has been agreed to in writing by the respondent, and

      2. The identity of the complainant will be disclosed to the respondent at the request of the respondent at any time.

    4. If during a hearing process the Ethics Panel determines that a recommendation should be provided to the Board relative to the matter at hand as it may apply to policy, the Ethics Panel will submit such recommendation in writing to the Board.

III. Rules for Formal Hearings Before the Ethics Panel

The following rules govern formal hearings before the Ethics Panel in cases of complaints filed under the Ethics Regulations:

  1. Investigations

    The Ethics Panel, legal counsel, or any other person designated by the Ethics Panel, will be responsible for conducting investigations and preliminary inquiries and for presenting findings to the Ethics Panel in connection with complaints being processed in accordance with these Ethics Regulations.

  2. Procedures

    1. Each hearing before the Ethics Panel will be held before a quorum of the Ethics Panel.

    2. The presiding officer will have charge of the hearing with full authority to permit or to limit the examination of witnesses, rule on the admissibility of evidence, and adjourn or recess the hearing from time to time. The presiding officer will require that an oath be administered to all witnesses testifying in the proceedings to be administered by a notary public or other officer of the court.

    3. Parties may be represented in any hearing by an attorney. However, parties may not refuse to directly respond to requests for information or questions addressed to them by members of the Ethics Panel unless such refusal is based on a recognized provision of law. The Ethics Panel need not accept the statements of the attorney as being the statement of the attorney’s client if the Ethics Panel desires direct testimony. The attorney may submit evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and make objections, exceptions, and motions. All testimony will be given under oath.

    4. Strict adherence to judicial rules of evidence will not be applicable to evidentiary hearings conducted by the Ethics Panel. In each case, the test of admissibility will be whether or not the evidence is reasonably relevant to a material issue and whether it has substantial value with respect to such material issue. The presiding officer may limit or refuse to admit cumulative or repetitive evidence and may curtail redundant questioning. The presiding officer may encourage, but will in no event coerce, the parties where possible to make stipulations as to matters not reasonably in dispute and to make stipulations in place of cumulative evidence.

    5. The presiding officer, or any person designated for this purpose, may examine all witnesses called by any party. The presiding officer may call as a witness any person whose testimony may be relevant and material. Any Ethics Panel member may examine any witness.

    6. Parties may submit briefs of the issues of fact and law involved in the hearing in such form as the presiding officer may designate.

    7. The presiding officer may limit, in advance, the time allowed for testimony by each party. Testimony by each party before the Ethics Panel will not exceed 30 minutes unless the presiding officer allows additional time for good reason.

    8. The Ethics Panel will notify and request that legal counsel be present when testimony is heard by the Ethics Panel.

    9. The Ethics Panel will record the proceeding for the purpose of providing the official written transcript of the proceeding. No other recording devices will be permitted.

    10. Postponement of a hearing may be granted if there are extenuating circumstances. Requests for postponement must be made in writing. Permission may be given by the presiding officer with the concurrence of the Ethics Panel members. All parties will be advised of the date of the rescheduled hearing.

  3. Due Process procedures for the hearing

    1. The opening statement by the presiding officer will cite the authority to hear the case and will explain the reason for the hearing.

    2. The complaint will be read into the record unless the witness is also a party. The presiding officer, however, may require any party who is also a witness to keep the testimony of other witnesses confidential until the hearing is concluded.

    3. Testimony of all parties and witnesses will be sworn or affirmed. All witnesses will be excused from the hearing except while testifying.

    4. The parties will be given an opportunity to present evidence and testimony on their behalf and to call witnesses.

    5. The parties and their attorneys will be afforded an opportunity to examine and cross-examine all witnesses and other parties.

    6. The Ethics Panel members may pose questions at any time during the proceedings.

    7. The presiding officer may exclude any question ruled to be irrelevant or argumentative.

    8. Each party may make a closing statement. The complainant will make the first closing statement, and the respondent will make the final closing statement.

    9. The Ethics Panel will adjourn the hearing.

    10. The Ethics Panel will go into executive session to decide the case.

  4. Findings

    1. After consideration of all the evidence, the Ethics Panel will prepare a written report setting forth findings of facts and conclusions of law with respect to each of the alleged violations.

    2. If the Ethics Panel concludes that the respondent has not violated any provisions of the Ethics Regulations, it will forward the recommendation to the Board that the complaint be dismissed, with written notice to the complainant and respondent.

    3. If the Ethics Panel concludes that the respondent has violated any of the provisions of the Ethics Regulations, it will forward its recommendations to the Board with written notice to the complainant and respondent.

V. History

ADOPTED: November 4, 2010

REVIEWED:

MODIFIED: January 10, 2013

REVISED:

EFFECTIVE: January 10, 2013