Ethical Practice of Government
The City of San Clemente is committed to ethical practice of government in service of its residents and community. California law sets forth a series of rules governing governmental and political ethics. These rules are codified in several places, including:
- California Political Reform Act of 1974 (Cal. Gov. Code § 81000 et seq.);
- Regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission (2 CCR § 18109 et seq.);
- Statutes concerning conflicts in government contracts (Cal. Gov. Code § 1090 et seq.); and
- Statutes concerning political activity of city officers and employees (Cal. Gov. Code § 3201 et seq.)
- Statute concerning unlawful use of government resources (Cal. Gov. Code § 8314)
California law also requires that the City provide ethics training for certain officials (Cal. Gov. Code § 53235) and requires that the City adopt and regularly update a Conflict of Interest Code (Cal. Gov’t Code § 87300; 2 CCR § 18730). San Clemente regularly provides this ethics training and has adopted and regularly updates a Conflict of Interest Code (SCMC ch. 2.24).
California’s rules of ethics are enforced by the:
- California Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”);
- Orange County Office of the District Attorney; and
- California Office of the Attorney General.
If you believe a San Clemente official of any other public official has violated a rule of ethics you may contact the FPPC, District Attorney, or Attorney General, depending on the alleged violation, for more information, or to file a complaint. You may reach out to the City Clerk for assistance in determining which of these enforcement agencies has jurisdiction over your concern[DP1] [KB2] . Below is information on select rules of ethics that apply to City officials and the enforcement agency for responsibility for each.
Rules of Ethics
- Campaign contributions and disclosures (FPPC);
- General conflicts of financial interest (FPPC);
- Self-dealing in a government contract (FPPC, District Attorney, and Attorney General);
- Incompatible offices (Attorney General);
- Inappropriate use of government resources (District Attorney and Attorney General; employee use of resources is also subject to City Manager review).
Campaign Contributions and Disclosures
The Political Reform Act and FPPC regulations require candidates and committees to file campaign statements by specified deadlines for contributions received and expenditures made (Cal. Gov. Code § 84100 et seq.; 2 CCR §§ 18110, 18115; Cal. Gov. Code § 85100 et seq.)
These documents are filed with the City Clerk, but auditing and enforcement is handled by the FPPC (Cal. Gov. Code § 83111). Please see below for information on how to contact the FPPC.
Conflict of Financial Interest
Generally, a public official may not participate in a decision in which he or she has a financial interest, meaning “it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect, distinguishable from its effect on the public generally, on the official…” (Cal. Gov. Code § 87103). The FPPC sets “materiality standards” for whether a government decision would be “reasonably foreseeable” to effect certain interests, including financial interests in:
- Business entities (2 CCR § 18702.1);
- Real property (2 CCR § 18702.2);
- Source of income (2 CCR § 18702.3);
- Source of gift (2 CCR § 18702.4); and
- Personal financial effect (2 CCR § 18702.5).
However, a public official may still participate in a decision “if the official establishes that a significant segment of the public is affected and the effect on his or her financial interest is not unique compared to the effect on the significant segment” (2 CCR § 18703(a)). The FPPC sets standards for determine what constitutes a significant segment of the public (2 CCR § 18703(b)) and what constitutes a unique effect (2 CCR § 18703(c)).
These conflict of financial interest rules are enforced by the FPPC (Cal. Gov. Code § 83111). Please see below for information on how to contact the FPPC.
Self-Dealing in a Government Contract
A public official may not, in his or her official capacity, participate in making government contracts for which they are personally financially interested (Cal. Gov. Code § 1090(a)). For example, a city-employed civil engineer cannot be awarded a contract to perform the civil engineering component of public works contract.
This conflict of interest in a government contract rule is enforced by the FPPC (Cal. Gov. Code § 1097.1), District Attorney (Cal. Gov. Code § 1097), and Attorney General (Cal. Gov. Code § 1097). Please see below for information on how to contact these agencies.
A public official may not simultaneously hold two offices that are incompatible (Cal. Gov. Code § 1099(a)). The positions must be offices (e.g., city council member, planning commissioner, or city manager) and not positions of employment. The two offices are incompatible when:
- One office may audit or overrule the other (Cal. Gov. Code § 1099(a)(1));
- There is a “significant possibility” of conflict of loyalties or duties (Cal. Gov. Code § 1099(a)(2)); or
- “Public policy considerations make it improper for one person to hold both office” (Cal. Gov. Code § 1099(a)(3)).
Inappropriate Use of Government Resources
A public official may not “use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law” (Cal. Gov. Code § 8314(a)). Further, other rules prohibit certain campaign activities in official capacity. For example, a public official may not participate in political activities while in uniform (Cal. Gov. Code § 3206).
Such violations are enforced by the District Attorney and Attorney General (Cal. Gov. Code § 8314(b)). Please see below for information on how to contact these agencies.
Enforcement agencies mentioned above may be contacted at the following addresses:
California Fair Political Practices Commission
428 J Street, 620, Sacramento, CA 95814
The FPPC is a five-member independent, non-partisan commission that administers California law regarding campaign financing, conflicts of interest, lobbying, and governmental ethics. The FPPC issues advice letters and opinions on matters within its jurisdiction. The FPPC enforces these rules by administrative proceedings, civil actions, or referrals to the District Attorney or Attorney General for criminal prosecution.
To file a complaint to the FPPC, please visit the FPPC’s “File a Complaint” webpage for the filing process and requirements.
Orange County Office of the District Attorney
Main Office: 401 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana, CA 92701
In 2012, the Orange County Office of the District Attorney created in the Special Prosecutions Unit to investigate and prosecute complaints involving misconduct by public officials or voting law. The District Attorney enforces such violations with criminal prosecution and civil action.
To file a complaint to the District Attorney’s Special Prosecutions Unit, please send a written complaint to:
Attn: Special Prosecutions Unit
Orange County Office of the District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
California Office of the Attorney General
1300 “I” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
The Attorney General enforces California ethics laws and issues opinions on such matters. As part of its 2010 guide on conflict of interest law, the Attorney General created an “Issue Spotter Checklist” with steps to identify several types of conflicts of interest (pp. 1-5). The Attorney General enforces rules of ethics with criminal prosecution and civil action.
To file a complaint to the Attorney General, please send a written complaint to:
Attorney General’s Office
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550