Top 5 enforcement trends from 2016
The Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) recently held its annual conference where, among many other interesting sessions, I was privileged to sit in on a panel presentation by compliance regulators from across the United States and Canada. The panel, which included representatives from ethics, campaign finance and lobbying agencies at both the state and federal levels, presented a survey of reported compliance issues from 2016.
The top enforcement action reported in 2016 was:
#1 Improper use of office or public position
This category remains on the top of the list as a result of numerous enforcement actions taken against public officials across the country and in Canada last year. For example, the State of Louisiana reported that it secured a record-setting $1.8 million penalty against a housing board member who voted to authorize a housing development, then submitted a bid from his private company a few days later to work on that same project.
In the same category, the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board reported on two enforcement cases where public officials used their official authority to help family members. And from Ohio, the Ohio Ethics Commission noted the former sheriff of Athens County, who is currently in prison for a series of theft in office crimes and related offenses stemming from pocketing fees from the sale of county vehicles and scrap metal.
Other categories that round out the top five enforcement trends for 2016 were:
#2 Reporting violations (failure to report lobbying and campaign finance activity accurately)
#3 Campaign contributions and money laundering (making contributions in the name of another)
#4 Bribery (general personal payments or campaign contributions in exchange for official action)
#5 Coordination (improper coordination between candidates, parties, independent expenditure organizations and/or trade associations)
This article was reprinted from the Winter 2017 Compliance Connections newsletter. Download the complete issue here.Download PDF