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County Ethics Policies

The “Comprehensive Governmental Ethics Reform Act of 2006” is codified in T.C.A. § 8-17-101 et seq.  Pursuant to the Ethics Reform Act all counties were required to adopt local ethics policies by June 30, 2007. The law directed CTAS to develop a model policy

These ethics policies are required to include rules and regulations regarding limits on, and/or reasonable and systematic disclosure of, gifts or other things of value received by officials and employees that impact or appear to impact their discretion, and rules and regulations regarding reasonable and systematic disclosure by officials and employees of their personal interests that impact or appear to impact their discretion.  T.C.A. § 8-17-102(a)(3).  It is important to note that the provisions of state law, to the extent that they are more restrictive, control.  Additionally, the Ethics Reform Act expressly states that these policies cannot include personnel or employment policies, or policies or procedures related to operational aspects of governmental entities.  T.C.A. § 8-17-102(a)(3).

The ethics policies adopted by a county commission apply broadly to all officials and employees in all offices, agencies, and departments of the county and to the members, officers, and employees of all boards, commissions, authorities, corporations, or other instrumentalities of a county.  However, ethics policies adopted by the county commission do not apply to utility districts or schools which must adopt their own ethics policies.  T.C.A. §§ 8-17-102(c) and 8-17-102(d).

If a board, commission, authority, corporation or other instrumentality is created by two or more local government entities, such creating entities are required, by amendment to the interlocal agreement or other agreement creating such joint instrumentality, to designate the ethical standards that govern the jointly created instrumentality.  T.C.A. § 8-17-102(b).

Violations of ethics policies by officials or employees covered by the local ethics policy are enforced in accordance with the provisions of existing state law.  T.C.A. § 8-17-106(b).

In 2023, the legislature amended T.C.A. § 8-17-104. By no later than January 1, 2024, each entity covered by this chapter shall notify the ethics commission, either in writing or electronically by email, of the primary person responsible for administering and enforcing the entity's ethical standards. The entity also shall provide the commission with the person's contact information, including the person's business address, phone number, and email address. The entity shall notify the commission of any change in such responsibility within thirty (30) calendar days of such change and shall provide the name and contact information for an interim official serving in this capacity until such time as a permanent successor can be identified.