Ethics Policy for Town Council

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Prepared by: Chris Simpson, Town Attorney

Adopted by Council: December 16, 2010

Effective: December 16, 2010


WHEREAS, the proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials be independent, impartial and responsible to the people, that governmental decisions and policy be made in proper channels of the governmental structure, that public office not be used for personal gain, and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government; and

WHEREAS, Section 160A-86 of the North Carolina General Statutes requires local governing boards to adopt a code of ethics, and

WHEREAS, as public officials we are charged with upholding the trust of the citizens of the Town of Cary, and with obeying the law, and

WHEREAS, we have each taken the oath of office required by the Constitution of North Carolina and have pledged that we will “support and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of North Carolina not inconsistent therewith” and further that we will “faithfully discharge the duties of our office”.

NOW THEREFORE, in recognition of our blessings and obligations as citizens of the State of North Carolina and as public officials representing the citizens of the Town of Cary and acting after conducting a public hearing and pursuant to the requirements of Section 160A-86 of the North Carolina General Statutes, we the Town Council of the Town of Cary do hereby adopt the following General Principles and Code of Ethics to guide the Town Council in its lawful decision-making.

Section 1.

General Principles Underlying the Code of Ethics.

The following general principles underlie this Code of Ethics: 

  1. The stability and proper operation of democratic representative government depend upon public confidence in the integrity of the government and upon responsible exercise of the trust conferred by the people upon their elected officials.
  2. Council members must be able to act in a manner that maintains their integrity and independence, yet is responsive to the interests and needs of those they represent.
  3. Council members must always remain aware that at various time they play different official roles:

i. As advocates, who strive to advance the legitimate needs of their citizens

ii. As legislators, who balance the public interest and private rights in considering and enacting ordinances, orders, and resolutions

iii. As decision-makers, who arrive at fair and impartial quasi-judicial and administrative determinations

  1. Council members must know how to distinguish among these official roles and other roles, such as their role as citizens, to determine when each role is appropriate, and to act accordingly.
  2. Council members must be aware of their obligation to conform their behavior to standards of ethical conduct that warrant the trust of their constituents. Each Council member must find within his or her own conscience the touchstone by which to determine what conduct is appropriate.

Section 2.


The purpose of this Code of Ethics is to establish guidelines for ethical standards of conduct for the Town of Cary Town Council and to help determine what conduct is appropriate in particular cases. This Code should not be considered a substitute for the law or for a Council member’s best judgment.

Section 3.

Council Member Ethical Responsibilities 

1. Following the Law. 

Council members should obey all laws and Town ordinances applicable to their official actions, and be guided by the spirit as well as the letter of the law.

2. Acting with Integrity and Independence.

Council members should act with integrity and independence from improper influence as they exercise the duties of their office.

3. Avoidance of Impropriety. 

Council members should avoid impropriety in the exercise of their official duties. 

4. Faithful Performance of Duties of Office. 

Council members should faithfully perform the duties of their office. Council members should act as the ‘especially responsible citizen’ whom others can trust and respect. 

5 Conducting the Work of the Council in an Open and Public Manner. 

Council members should conduct the affairs of the Council in an open and public manner. They should comply with all applicable laws governing open meetings and public records. 

Section 4.

Ethics Awareness Program 

In addition to the statutory requirement for ethics training, ethics awareness program shall be included in the orientation for each new Town Council member by the Town Manager or designee. 

Section 5.

Review by Council of Apparent Violations of this Code. 

If a majority of the Council has reason to believe that one of its members has violated a provision of this Code of Ethics, it may direct the Town Attorney to hire an outside attorney licensed in the state of North Carolina to conduct an investigation into the matter to determine whether probable cause exists to initiate censure proceedings. The outside attorney shall report the results of the investigation to the Town Council at an open meeting of the Council. All records compiled, including the grounds for any finding of probable cause, shall be shared with the member. The public records law shall apply to such records.

If upon receiving the report of the outside attorney the Council concludes that a violation of a criminal law may have occurred, it shall refer the matter to an appropriate law enforcement agency. 

Should the Council determine after receiving the report of the outside attorney that it wishes to proceed further with censure proceedings, it shall call for a quasi-judicial type hearing, to be held at a regular meeting or at a special meeting convened for that purpose and shall provide appropriate notice to the public of said proceeding. The hearing shall be convened at the time and place specified. The hearing and any deliberations shall be conducted in open session in accordance with the N.C. open meetings statutes. The accused Council member shall have the right to have counsel present to present and cross-examine expert and other witnesses, and to offer evidence, including evidence of the bias of any other Council member. Any and all votes during the hearing shall be taken by the ayes and noes and recorded in the Council’s minutes. Once the hearing is concluded, it shall be closed by a vote of the Council. The presiding officer shall entertain a motion to adopt a nonbinding resolution censuring the member based on specified violations of this code of ethics. Any motion made must be an affirmative one in favor of adopting a nonbinding resolution of censure and must specify the particular grounds for censure. If the motion or resolution does not state particular grounds for censure under the code of ethics, the presiding officer shall rule it out of order.

If a motion to adopt a nonbinding resolution of censure stating particular grounds is made, the Council shall debate the motion. The accused member shall be allowed to participate in the debate but shall not be allowed to vote on the motion.

At the conclusion of the debate, the Council shall vote on the resolution. If the motion to adopt the nonbinding resolution of censure is approved by a majority vote of those present and voting, the motion passes and the nonbinding resolution of censure is adopted.

The text of the nonbinding resolution of censure shall be made a part of the minutes of the Council.

This Policy shall be effective upon adoption. 

Adopted this the 16th day of December, 2010.