Advice

One of the core functions of the Ohio Ethics Commission is to “render advisory opinions with regard to questions concerning” the Ohio Ethics Law for the public officials and employees under its jurisdiction. The Commission also provides general guidance about the law through telephone calls and e-mail. This section handles those responsibilities.

Advisory Opinions

Anyone can call or e-mail the Ethics Commission with questions about the law or opinions of the Commission. Staff cannot provide advisory opinions over the telephone or in response to an e-mail but it can provide general information or guidance. Staff can also direct callers or e-mail requesters to relevant advisory opinions, information sheets, or other helpful resources.

If you would like to review an Overview of the Law, with information sheets and other useful tools, you can go to the Ethics Education Section of this Web site.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have a number of resources to help you understand how the Ethics Law relates to you.  The Ohio Ethics Law Overview is a great place to start as it explains and describes the law in layperson easy-to-understand terms. Other helpful fact sheets include:

 General Information on the Ethics Law and Ethics Commission
A brief overview of the purpose and value of the Ohio Ethics Law.

 The Ohio Ethics Law Outline
A brief outline of the major provisions of the Ohio Ethics Law.

 Full Outline of the Ohio Ethics Law
A more extensive outline of the entire Ethics Law.

 Authority of the Ohio Ethics Commission
An outline that includes information on alternative agencies to contact if your situation falls outside of Ethics Law considerations.

Having a conflict of interest is not illegal. In fact, conflicts are normal because public servants have families and friends, and may have businesses, professions, investments, property interests, and other connections to their communities. Any of these connections could result in a conflict of interest for the official. The issue is how the public servant responds to his or her conflict of interest.  Conflicts of Interest: What Should I Know? explores our responsibility when faced with a conflict of interest.

Yes, there are a number of restrictions that apply, regardless of whether the official is seeking a job with a private corporation, a non-profit organization, or another public agency.  Seeking New or Outside Employment (Information Sheet #4) explores limits on job seeking.

No. A public official cannot act on matters that affect property the official owns.

This  Property Matters Information Sheet and  Advisory Opinion No. 92-019 more fully explain the restrictions on a public official when a matter before his or her agency affects the official’s own property. For information regarding property owned by a public official’s family, review  Property Matter Affecting Family Members (Information Sheet #13).

The Ethics Law generally prohibits public officials from participating in a regulatory matter that would result in a definite and direct economic benefit or detriment to them. To further explore this issue and restriction please review  Regulatory Matter Affecting a Public Official or Employee (Information Sheet #14).

Yes. Even if an official can serve in more than one position, the Law will restrict some actions in the public positions.  Person Serving in Multiple Public Positions (Information Sheet #12) explains the Law as it applies to any person who wants to hold more than one public position at the same time.

Not if the gift is substantial in value and is from a source that is doing or seeking to do business with, regulated by, or interested in matters before the public agency you serve. For more information, please see this  Accepting Gifts, Meals or Entertainment Information Sheet or the  Gift and Entertainment Bulletin.

Yes. All public school officials and employees are subject to the public contract and supplemental compensation restrictions. Teachers who do not perform administrative or supervisory functions are exempt from the conflict of interest, gift, and post-employment restrictions, though all other school officials, administrators and staff are subject to these provisions. Examples of teachers who perform, or have the authority to perform, administrative or supervisory functions include academic department heads, athletic directors, and coaches. For more information reference  The Ohio Ethics Law 101: The Ethics Toolkit for Public School Districts.

In general, the Ohio Ethics Law prohibits public officials and employees from accepting or soliciting complimentary conference registration from improper sources. Circumstances may be different if, as part of your official duties, you are a speaker at the conference. This and other conference questions are explored in depth in the  Conferences and the Ohio Ethics Law Fact Sheet.

No. When public officials or employees attend conferences in their official capacity, the Ethics Law prohibits them from accepting door prizes won at the conference, even if the drawing was random and all attendees were automatically entered. Should a public official or employee “win” such a drawing, the door prize belongs to the official or employee’s public agency. The agency may simply decline to accept the gift or may also choose to use it for an appropriate public purpose. This is a potential choice since the Ethics Law does not prohibit a public agency from accepting a donation from a private party as long as no official or employee benefits personally from the donation and the donation is voluntary. This and other conference questions are explored in depth in the  Conferences and the Ohio Ethics Law Fact Sheet

Yes. The law does not prohibit voluntary donations to a public agency, as long as no individual official benefits personally. For more information, please review the  When is a Gift a Donation? Fact Sheet and  Public-Private Partnerships (Information Sheet #11).

You can certainly discuss or share non-confidential information with your new colleagues, but you are prohibited from representing any person (including a company, nonprofit organization, or public agency) on any matter in which you personally participated for one year after leaving public service (some officials have a two-year bar.)

The  Post-Employment and Revolving Door Worksheet and the  Post-Employment Information Sheet address representation and will help you determine what restrictions affect your new job.

No. A public official or employee cannot be paid by a client to perform any services on a matter that is being reviewed or decided by a state agency, even if he or she will not personally appear before the state agency. Representation and other restrictions related to business associates are further expanded upon in the  Rendering Services on a Matter Before Another Public Entity Fact Sheet and  Business Associates and Public Contracts (Information Sheet #15).

No. While he or she is serving on an agency’s governing board, a public official or employee cannot be hired by the agency. He or she also cannot even seek employment with the agency until he or she resigns from the public agency.

This  Board Member Seeking Employment Information Sheet explains these restrictions more fully.

In most situations, no. However, public officials may be able to sell things to the public agency if they can meet an exception to the public contract restriction. There are information sheets that explain these restrictions more fully:

It depends. Local officials and employees should be aware that they work for that entire governmental body, not just the office where they report to work each day. Non-elected state employees may sell to a state agency other than their own IF they successfully complete a number of steps, including a competitive bidding process and filing of a 102.04(D) statement. There are information sheets that explain these restrictions more fully:

No. A public official or employee is absolutely prohibited from hiring his or her family members. The official or employee also cannot use his or her public position in any way to get someone else to hire his or her family members.

The  Nepotism Information Sheet,  Nepotism Restrictions FAQ, and  Advisory Opinion No. 2010-03 explain these restrictions more fully.

If the family member is a minor child there are even more stringent restrictions. These restrictions are outlined in the  Reminder about Summer Jobs and Restrictions on Nepotism Bulletin.

Yes, provided that you take no action to hire or get someone else to hire the family member. However, while you are working together, you cannot secure any employment related benefits for the family member, such as raises, promotions, job advancement, or benefits. Further, you cannot make decisions that benefit your family member related to that person’s employment, such performance evaluations, personnel actions, and discipline.

The  Nepotism Information Sheet, the  Nepotism Restrictions FAQ, and  Advisory Opinion No. 2010-03 explain the limits on a public official when his or her family members are employed by the same public agency.

A public official’s or employee’s family members include his or her:

  • Spouse;
  • Parents and Step-parents;
  • Grandparents;
  • Children and Step-children;
  • Grandchildren; and
  • Siblings.

Also included is any other person related to the official or employee by blood or by marriage who resides in the same household with the official or employee.

The  Nepotism Information Sheet, the  Nepotism Restrictions FAQ, and  Advisory Opinion No. 2010-03 explain which people are considered a public official’s family members for purposes of the restriction against hiring family members.

There are three revolving door (or post-employment) restrictions that apply most public officials and employees after they leave their public positions:

  • R.C. 102.03(A)(1) - A former public official or employee cannot represent any person before any public agency on matters in which he or she personally participated. This prohibition applies to the former public servant for one year after leaving the public position.
  • R.C. 102.03(B) - A former public official or employee cannot disclose or use confidential information he or she acquired during his or her public service. There is no time limit on this restriction.
  • R.C. 2921.42(A)(3) - A former public official or employee cannot profit from a contract that he or she authorized, or that was authorized by the public agency he or she served, unless it was competitively bid. This prohibition applies to the former public servant for one year after leaving the public position.

This  Post-Employment Information Sheet and  Advisory Opinion No. 2011-03 explain these revolving door restrictions.  Advisory Opinion No. 2012-03 and  Advisory Opinion No. 2012-04 explain the revolving door law exceptions.

There are three other post-employment restrictions that apply to small groups of former public servants:

  • PUCO Commissioners and Attorney Examiners - R.C. 102.03(A)(2);
  • Officials and employees who participated in solid or hazardous waste matters - R.C. 102.03(A)(3); and
  • Casino Control Commission Members and Employees - R.C. 102.03(A)(10).

Yes, the private sector can also be subject to the Ethics Law! Companies and organizations that do or seek to do business with, are regulated by, or have an interest in a matter pending before a government office, are also subject to the Ethics Law. The  Private Sector Brochure, and the  Private Sector Newsletter explore how the Ethics Law applies when private and public sectors meet.

Yes! Anyone can call or e-mail the Ethics Commission with questions about the Law or opinions of the Commission; after all, the private sector can also be subject to the Ethics Law. The Commission cannot provide advisory opinions in response to questions about someone other than the requester. If you have a question about the possible actions of another person, you can request general information from the Commission. For more information please review the  General Information on the Ethics Law and Ethics Commission Fact Sheet, the  Private Sector Brochure, and the  Private Sector Newsletter.

The Ethics Commission would be happy to assist in understanding FDS filing. Our  Financial Disclosure Frequently Asked Questions Fact Sheet and the FDS FAQs page on our website are easy to use, readily available resources. If you still have questions, feel free to call the Ethics Commission at (614) 466-7090 or (800) 750-0750.

State officials and employees:

  • Elected officials and candidates for state office;
  • Appointees to unexpired terms of state elected office;
  • All members of the state board of education;
  • Directors, assistant directors, deputy directors, divisions chiefs, and “persons of equivalent rank” serving state administrative departments;
  • State employees paid a salary or wage in accordance with schedule C or E-2;
  • Members of the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court of Ohio and of the Ohio Ethics Commission;
  • Members and chief executive officers of state boards and commissions that exercise the powers of the state [ List];
  • Trustees and presidents or chief executive officers of every state college and university [ List];
  • Members and chief executive officers of the state retirement systems;
  • Licensed investment officers of the state retirement systems;
  • Each member of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Board of Directors;
  • Chief Investment Officer and Director of Investments of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation;
  • Director appointed by the Workers’ Compensation Council;
  • Members appointed by the governor and staff of the Retirement Study Commission; and
  • Members and executive directors of the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation and the Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Foundation; and
  • Members and some upper level employees of JobsOhio.

Local officials and employees:

  • Elected officials and candidates for city and county offices;
  • Elected or appointed board members and candidates for school board or educational service center governing board in districts/ESCs with a total student count of 12,000 or more [List];
  • Appointees to unexpired terms in any of these elected offices;
  • Business managers, treasurers, and superintendents of all school districts and educational service centers;
  • Appointees to the board of education of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and any other municipal school district; and
  • Members of the board of directors of a sanitary district established under R.C. Chapter 6115 that includes two municipal corporations in two counties (Mahoning Valley Sanitary District).

The  Financial Disclosure Fact Sheet and  Financial Disclosure FAQs further explore the topic of Financial Disclosure.

Under state law, the Commission may share information with other law enforcement authorities when relevant and necessary to the conduct of an investigation. Otherwise, the statute deems any complaints, charges, or investigations handled by the Ohio Ethics Commission private and confidential. The  Investigation Confidentiality at the Ohio Ethics Commission Fact Sheet provides some more information on this confidentiality.

Yes. Statutes outside the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction specifically permit a township trustee to simultaneously serve as an unpaid volunteer firefighter for his or her own township. However, the Ethics Laws will prohibit a trustee from participating in some matters affecting the fire department’s personnel as detailed in the  Township Trustees Serving as Volunteer Firefighters Fact Sheet.

In 2004, the Ohio General Assembly enacted amendments to the laws that govern the regulation of Ohio’s five public retirement systems. Included are provisions that attempt to protect against conflicts of interest for certain individuals and entities doing or seeking to do business with the retirement systems through new limitations and requirements to register or file disclosure statements with the State of Ohio. These amendments are detailed in the  Doing Business with Retirement Systems in Ohio Fact Sheet.

The Ethics Law fully applies to board and commission members, and many are Financial Disclosure Statement filers. For more information please review the  Board and Commission Member Do's and Don'ts Fact Sheet and the  Board or Commission Member Information Sheet.

The Ethics Law fully applies to trustees of public colleges and universities, and trustees are required to file a Financial Disclosure Statement. For more information please review the  Trustees of Public Colleges and Universities Fact Sheet and  Financial Disclosure Frequently Asked Questions Fact Sheet.

The Ethics Law applies to members of the Casino Control Commission, like all public officials and employees. It also requires that all members and the Executive Director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, all the Commission’s professional employees, and all the Commission’s technical employees who perform an internal audit function to file annual disclosure statements. Additionally, members and staff of the Casino Control Commission fall into the category of public servants who have a two-year post-employment restrictions. For more information please review  Casinos and the Ohio Ethics Law (Information Sheet #9).

The Ethics Law applies to officials and employees of county governments as they do to any other Ohio public entity.  Cuyahoga County (Information Sheet #10) speaks specifically to Cuyahoga County but is equally applicable to any Ohio county.

For your convenience we provide the following ethics policy templates. Please be aware that a public agency cannot create a policy or rule that is less restrictive than Ohio’s Ethics Law. However, an agency may have a policy or rule that is more restrictive.