The City of Atlanta’s Code of Ethics seeks to ensure that governmental decisions are made in the public’s best interest by prohibiting city officials and employees from participating in matters that affect their personal or financial interests. By following the standards established in the code, elected city officials help the City of Atlanta gain the full trust of its citizens as a government that conducts itself in an open, honest, and fair manner.
Persons Affected by the Ethics Code
The ethics code applies to all city officials and employees. It covers persons who are elected or appointed, employed full-time or part-time, and paid or unpaid.
Conflicts of Interest
A conflict of interest occurs when a city official or employee has a personal or financial interest or engages in an outside activity that is incompatible with the proper discharge of the employee’s official duties or the individual’s exercise of independent judgment or action.
Participation in contracts. City officials and employees may not participate in any decision related to a contract or other matter in which they, their immediate family, or their business have a financial or personal interest in the matter. See § 2-812; FAO2003-2 (conflicts of interest related to authority president).
Doing business with the city. City officials and employees may not have an ownership interest in a company that does business with the City of Atlanta unless the business is conducted through a sealed competitive bid process or a request for proposal awarded at a public meeting. This rule does not apply when an official owns less than ten percent of any publicly traded stock. See § 2-820 (c); FAO 2005-3 (city employees doing business with the City).
Private employment. City officials and employees may not engage in private employment, including self-employment, or render services for private interests when the employment is adverse to and incompatible with the proper discharge of the official’s official duties.
Investments. No city official or employee may hold any direct or indirect investment in any financial, business, commercial or other private transaction that adversely affects the individual’s official duties to the city’s detriment. See § 2-820 (a); FAO 2004-2 (conflicts of interest related to city employee providing city-mandated training for taxicab drivers).
City officials and employees may not accept gratuities, honoraria, or other things of value from a prohibited source.
Prohibited source. A prohibited source is any person, company, or entity that is doing business or seeking to do business with the city, is seeking official action from the city, has interests that could be substantially affected by the performance of the employee’s official duties, or is registered as a lobbyist under state law. See § 2-801. An individual is not a prohibited source based on a routine dealing with the City, such as owning property, seeking a business license, or paying a water bill.
Example: A homeowner who seeks a building permit is a prohibited source towards the city employee in the Bureau of Buildings who makes the decision on whether to grant the permit. In the normal course of events, the homeowner is not a prohibited source towards elected city officials or other city employees.
Gifts and things of value. City officials and employees may not accept any gift from a prohibited source unless the gift falls within one of the exceptions to the definition of gratuity. There are exceptions for:
See §§ 2-801, 2-817, 2-818; FAO2004-8 (holiday gifts); FAO2005-6 (solicitations for city programs benefiting citizens).
Meals. City officials and employees may accept reasonable meals and refreshments furnished in connection with their appearance in an official capacity at a public event, hospitality extended for a purpose unrelated to the city’s official business, and meals in connection with certain travel. See § 2-801; FAO2006-2 (expense reimbursements from prohibited sources).
Travel. City officials and employees may accept “reasonable hosting expenses” from non-city sources for travel, meals, lodging, and conference fees provided in connection with (1) teaching, (2) a speaking engagement, (3) participation on a professional or civic panel, or (4) attendance at a conference in an official capacity. See §§ 2-801 & 2-815; FAO 2004-5 (travel exception for panel participation); FAO 2006-2 (expense reimbursements from prohibited sources).
Tickets. City officials and employees generally may not accept tickets to concerts, plays, athletic, or other entertainment events as a gift, except when performing an official duty at the event. See § 2-816; FAO 2004-7 (gifts of tickets).
Honoraria. City officials and employees may not accept personal honoraria from a prohibited source. See § 2-820 (f); FAO 2003-3 (personal honorarium).
Other Things of Value that May Be Accepted. Besides certain gifts, meals, and travel, the code excludes the following from the definition of a prohibited gratuity: salaries from another employer, campaign contributions, commercially reasonable loans, inheritances, and items of nominal, insignificant, or trivial value. See § 2-801.
Use of Public Property
City officials and employees may not use city property, vehicles, equipment, labor, or services for their own personal use or for the private advantage of any other person, unless the general public may use the property in the same way. City officials should restrict their use of city property to official city business. See § 2-811.; FAO2003-1 (no waiver of rental fees for personal use of parks property); FAO2004-1 (official city business); FAO2005-7 (candidates’ use of city property).
A city official or employee may not disclose any confidential information concerning the property, governing operations, policies, or affairs of the City or use the information acquired in an official capacity to advance any personal or financial interests. See § 2-819; FAO2006-1 (confidential information).
City officials and employees may not appear on behalf of private interests before any city agency, except as a matter of public record in a court of law. Councilmembers may appear before any agency on behalf of constituents or in the performance of public or civic obligations, if not paid, but may not appear before the zoning review board except in connection with their own property interests. See §§ 2-808, 2-809; FAO2005-4 (board members appearing before their own board).
City officials and employees may not solicit anything calculated to influence a decision or the exercise of official authority. See § 2-818; FAO2004-6 (solicitations for charity from a prohibited source); FAO2005-2 (solicitations for employee awards); FAO2005-6 (solicitations for city programs benefiting citizens). The Board of Ethics has established the following guidelines for solicitations made by city officials on behalf of the City from prohibited sources.
Representation after Separation from Employment
The city’s “revolving door” policy limits the activities of former city officials and employees for one year. It prohibits officials from appearing before any city agency or receiving compensation for any services in connection with any matter in which they were directly concerned, personally participated, actively considered, or acquired knowledge while working for the city. See § 2-810; FAO2004-3 (restrictions on representation after leaving city employment); FAO2005-5 (restrictions on work of former deputy city attorney for one year).
Standards of Conduct
This guide provides a summary of the significant provisions in the City’s Code of Ethics. Officials are encouraged to review the specific language in sections 2-801 to 2-825 of the City’s Code of Ordinances or contact the City’s Ethics Office at firstname.lastname@example.org if they have a question about applying these ethical standards to their actions.