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California’s Conflict of Interest Codes

Every agency must adopt and promulgate a Conflict of Interest Code

By Chris Micheli, January 19, 2022 3:03 pm

Government Code Title 9, Chapter 7, Article 3 requires conflicts of interest codes to be adopted. Section 87300 specifies that every agency must adopt and promulgate a Conflict of Interest Code (COIC) and a COIC has the force of law and any violation of a COIC by a designated employee is deemed a violation of this chapter.

Section 87301 provides that it is the policy that COICs are be formulated at the most decentralized level possible, but without precluding intra-departmental review. Any question of the level of a department which should be deemed an “agency” is to be resolved by the code reviewing body.

Section 87302 requires each COIC to contain the following provisions:

  • Specific enumeration of the positions within the agency that involve the making or participation in the making of decisions which may foreseeably have a material effect on any financial interest and for each such enumerated position, the specific types of investments, business positions, interests in real property, and sources of income which are reportable.
  • Requirements that each designated employee file statements at times and under circumstances described in this section, disclosing reportable investments, business positions, interests in real property, and income.
  • Specific provisions setting forth any circumstances under which designated employees or categories of designated employees must disqualify themselves from making, participating in the making, or using their official position to influence the making of any decision. Disqualification is required by the COIC when the designated employee has a financial interest which it is reasonably foreseeable may be affected materially by the decision.
  • For any position set forth above, an individual who resigns the position within 12 months following initial appointment or within 30 days of the date of a notice mailed by the filing officer of the individual’s filing obligation, whichever is earlier, is not deemed to assume or leave office, provided that during the period between appointment and resignation, the individual does not make, participate in making, or use the position to influence any decision of the agency or receive, or become entitled to receive, any form of payment by virtue of being appointed to the position.

Section 87302.3 requires every candidate for an elective office that is designated in a COIC to file a statement disclosing the candidate’s investments, business positions, interests in real property, and income received during the immediately preceding 12 months, as enumerated in the disclosure requirements for that position. The statement must be filed with the election official with whom the candidate’s declaration of candidacy or other nomination documents to appear on the ballot are required to be filed.

Note that this section does not apply to either of the following:

  • A candidate for an elective office designated in a COIC who has filed an initial, assuming office, or annual statement pursuant to that COIC within 60 days before the deadline.
  • A candidate for an elective office who has filed a statement for the office within 60 days before the deadline.

Section 87302.6 requires a member of a board or commission of a newly created agency to file a statement at the same time and in the same manner as those individuals required to file.

Section 87303 specifies that a COIC is effective until it has been approved by the code reviewing body. Each agency must submit a proposed COIC to the code reviewing body by the deadline established for the agency by the code reviewing body. The deadline for a new agency is not to be later than six months after it comes into existence.

Section 87304 specifies that, if any agency fails to submit a proposed COIC or amendments, or if any state agency fails to report amendments within the time limits prescribed, the code reviewing body may issue any appropriate order directed to the agency or take any other appropriate action, including the adoption of a COIC for the agency.

Section 87305 states that, if after six months following the deadline for submission of the proposed COIC to the code reviewing body no COIC has been adopted and promulgated, the superior court may, in an action filed by the FPPC, the agency, the code reviewing body, any officer, employee, member or consultant of the agency, or any resident of the jurisdiction, prepare a COIC and order its adoption by the agency or grant any other appropriate relief.

Section 87306 requires every agency to amend its COIC when change is necessitated by changed circumstances, including the creation of new positions which must be designated and relevant changes in the duties assigned to existing positions.

Section 87306.5 requires, no later than July 1 of each even-numbered year, the code reviewing body to direct every local agency which has adopted a COIC in accordance with this title to review its COIC and, if a change in its code is necessitated by changed circumstances, submit an amended COIC to the code reviewing body.

Section 87307 authorizes an agency to amend at any time its COIC either upon its own initiative or in response to a petition submitted by an officer, employee, member or consultant of the agency, or a resident of the jurisdiction. If the agency fails to act upon such a petition within ninety days, the petition is deemed denied.

Section 87308 provides that judicial review of any action of a code reviewing body under this chapter may be sought by the FPPC, by the agency, by an officer, employee, member or consultant of the agency, or by a resident of the jurisdiction.

Section 87309 prohibits a COIC or amendment from being approved by the code reviewing body or upheld by a court if it:

  • Fails to provide reasonable assurance that all foreseeable potential conflict of interest situations will be disclosed or prevented;
  • Fails to provide to each affected person a clear and specific statement of that person’s duties under the code; or
  • Fails to adequately differentiate between designated employees with different powers and responsibilities.

Section 87310 specifies that, if the duties of a designated employee are so broad or indefinable, the COIC must require the designated employee to comply with the requirements of Article 2 of this chapter.

Section 87311 provides that the review of proposed COICs by the FPPC and by the Attorney General and the preparation of proposed COICs by state agencies is subject to the Administrative Procedure Act. Section 87311.5 precludes the review of the COIC of an agency in the judicial branch of government from being subject to the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act. Section 87312 requires the FPPC, upon request, to provide technical assistance to agencies in the preparation of COICs.

Section 87313 prohibits a person from making a gift of $50 or more in a calendar month on behalf of another, or while acting as the intermediary or agent of another to a person whom the intermediary or agent knows or has reason to know may be required to disclose the gift pursuant to a COIC, without disclosing to the recipient of the gift both the intermediary or agent’s own full name, street address, and business activity, if any, and the full name, street address, and business activity, if any, of the actual donor.

Section 87314 requires a board, commission, or agency of a public pension or retirement system to attach to its COIC an appendix entitled “Agency Positions that Manage Public Investments for Purposes of Section 87200 of the Government Code.” The appendix must contain specified information and the board, commission, or agency must post the appendix on its Internet Web site in a manner that makes it easily identifiable and accessible by persons who view that Web site.

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