Standards of Conduct are laws that set professional standards in order to support and enforce the ethics, professional responsibility, and behavior of public servants. They are designed to promote honesty, integrity, and impartiality in providing public services. The Standards also ensure nondiscriminatory access to services to the extent that they are available.
The following are one of the most important Standards of Conduct laws to know:
Bribery: Found in the Texas Penal Code, Section 36.02
Bribery includes situations where a public officer solicits a bribe or is offered a bribe by another person. It’s required that it gives a benefit to the individual as well as to family members or to others in who’s well-being the briber is interested.
Laws regarding bribery apply to any public servant who solicits, accepts or agrees to accept any benefit in return for help with bids and/or other financial transactions (Section 36.08). This section also provides penalties for bribes in connection with contracts, purchases, payments, claims, etc. The public servant commits an offense if he solicits or accepts a gift from a donor who the servant knows is interested in his or her official action.
Offering Prohibits Gifts to Public Officials: Found in Texas Penal Code, Section 39.01
A person commits an offense if he offers, confers, or agrees to confer any benefit on a public servant that he knows the public servant is prohibited by the law from accepting. Offenses under this section are a Class A misdemeanor.
Official Misconduct and Abuse of Office: Found in Texas Penal Code, Section 39.01
This provision prohibits unauthorized exercises of official power and violation of laws related to public office.
Misuse of Official Information: Found in Texas Penal Code, Section 39.03
This section makes it a crime for public servants to profit off of inside information, speculate, or aid another on the basis of confidential information.
Fair Labor Standards: This applies to paid employees only
Local governments, including ESDs and their contracting emergency services organizations, are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Generally, the Act indicates that an employee who works more than 40 hours in a specific work week shall be compensated at a rate of 1-1/2 times the normal salary or granted compensatory time at 1-1/2 hours for each hour of overtime.
The FLSA rules are very exacting and will not permit an employee to volunteer to put in extra time on his regular job at no cost. Any questions should be directed to the ESD attorney.
Civil Rights: Found in US Code, Section 1983, Title 42
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any state, or territory, subjects or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United states or other person within the jurisdiction there of to the deprivation of any rights privileges, or immunities secured by the constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured.
The liabilities extend not only to employees, but to citizens and to uses of property. An example of potential liability could be the Board’s decision to let organizations or groups use the ESD’s meeting hall for various functions, yet deny one group such access because someone determines that the group was “different”.