The Richmond Ethics Board will determine from now on whether it has the jurisdiction to review an ethics complaint and whether there is enough probable cause to investigate the allegation.
In the past, the board only determined if it had the jurisdiction to review ethics complaints filed against public servants and city personnel. City commissioners on Monday reviewed amendments to the ordinance that outlines the duties and responsibilities of the board.
City Attorney Gary Smith explained the amendments to commissioners. He said anyone who wants to file an ethics complaint will have to fill out a detailed complaint form available online.
Complainants must support their allegations with documentation and swear under oath what they are saying is true.
At that point, the city manager will review the form to see if it has been filled out correctly and if not notify the complainant.
If the form is filled out correctly, it will be forwarded to the ethics board for review and the complainant and accused will be notified that the board is reviewing the complaint.
If the board determines it has the jurisdiction to review the complaint and there is enough probable cause to believe a violation has occurred, it can hold an informal hearing on the allegation.
The accused may decide to accept a reprimand and the complaint will end at that point. If not, the board can hold a formal hearing and call witnesses to testify.
After a final hearing on the allegation, the board can issue in order of importance, a letter of admonishment, a letter of reprimand or a letter of censure to be placed in the employees or public servant’s record.
The city commission, upon receipt of the final recommendation of the board, can either approve the recommendation, deny it or modify it.
City employees may appeal the final decision of the board. In a related matter, Smith said city employees and public servants may accept meals provided by vendors at functions without violating the city’s ethics clause.
If they are forced to skip meals out of fear of violating the ethics clause, they may miss out on events in which other city’s send representatives, he explained.