Public Officials And Employees Ethical Obligation To Avoid Even Indirect Financial Conflicts Of Interest

By: Morin I. Jacob
California Public Agency Labor & Employment Blog, October 27, 2011

Public employees and officials have ethical obligations that are unique to them and are part and parcel of their roles in the public sector.  For example, they are required to act in the best interests of the public at all times. They are charged with the fiduciary duty to protect and manage public funds, and must at all times conduct themselves and their business dealings in accordance with ethical standards, regulatory requirements, and the public trust.  Violations of ethical obligations carry a multitude of consequences that vary depending on the type of offense.  Penalties can range from civil or criminal sanctions to permanent forfeiture of state public office. In addition, when government employees fail to comply with ethical obligations they may also be subject to discipline, up to and including discharge.

Government Code section 1090 prohibits government employees and officials from being financially interested in a contract made in their official capacity.  The public official or employee must not be distracted by personal financial gain, or even by the possibility of personal financial interest. The statute removes or limits any possibility that an official or employee will be influenced by any direct or indirect personal interest when making an official decision.

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