Email a Friend Translate Page Text Size: Sm Med Lg
NYC Conflicts of Interest Board

About COIB

An Introduction to the Conflicts of Interest Board and Chapter 68 of the City Charter


● 
 Introduction to The Conflicts of Interest Board
●  The Conflicts of Interest Board
●  What Is Chapter 68, the City's "Ethics Law"?
●  Who Is Covered by Chapter 68 of the City Charter, the Conflicts of Interest Law?
●  How to Obtain Information on the Conflicts of Interest Law
●  What Can Happen If You Violate the Conflicts of Interest Law?
●  How to Report Conflicts of Interest Violations
●  Getting Advice from the Conflicts of Interest Board 


Introduction to The Conflicts of Interest Board

If you work for the City of New York, you have a special public trust. Part of that trust involves following rules of ethical conduct that often set a higher standard than in the private sector.

For example, while a private company may allow its employees to receive expensive Christmas presents from vendors, City workers are prohibited from accepting such gifts.

The rules concerning the ethical conduct of public servants were enacted because the City and its employees have a special obligation to make sure that the public good is well-served. In order for the public to have confidence that City workers are performing their jobs with integrity, the City must ensure not only that its employees act fairly and impartially, but also that their actions appear fair and impartial.

Most of the ethical rules of conduct for City employees are found in Chapter 68 of the City Charter. These rules set minimum standards, the violation of which may result in serious penalties. It is important to remember that these rules represent the bottom line, not the highest ethical standards that you should aim for as a City employee. For example, you may not want to accept any gift from a City vendor, however small, because you think accepting it would send that vendor the wrong message. Furthermore, City employees should also be aware that their own agency may set higher standards than the minimum standards contained in Chapter 68. For information about your agency's special regulations, check with your agency's general counsel or personnel officer.

[back to top]


The Conflicts of Interest Board
The Conflicts of Interest Board is the ethics board for the City of New York and was created by the 1988 Charter revision as the successor to the former Board of Ethics, which had been in operation since 1959. The Conflicts of Interest Board is the independent, non-mayoral City agency charged with interpreting and enforcing the Conflicts of Interest Law, found in Chapter 68 of the New York City Charter, the City's Annual Disclosure Law, set forth in section 12-110 of the New York City Administrative Code, and the Lobbyist Gift Law, found in sections 3-224 through 3-228 of the Administrative Code.

 

The Mayor, with the advice and consent of the City Council, appoints the Board's five members to staggered, six-year terms. Headed by an Executive Director, the staff is divided into six units: Legal Advice, Training and Education, Annual Disclosure, Enforcement, Information Technology, and Administration. With limited exceptions, specifically spelled out in Chapter 68, the records of the Board are confidential.

The Board meets once each month to consider cases brought before it and to issue opinions and orders and impose penalties for violation of the Conflicts of Interest Law, Annual Disclosure Law, or the Lobbyist Gift Law. On a daily basis, staff attorneys provide oral and written legal advice on those laws and prosecute violations. Staff trainers and writers teach City employees about the Conflicts of Interest Law and Lobbyist Gift Law. The Annual Disclosure Unit administers the City's Annual Disclosure Law for the approximately 8,500 City employees who file annual financial disclosure forms with the Board.

●  Directory of COIB Annual Reports
●  Archive of the Board's Quarterly Newsletter, "The Ethical Times"
●  A Brief Overview of the Conflicts of Interest Board (in PDF)

[back to top]


What Is Chapter 68, the City's "Ethics Law"?

The conflicts of interest law was enacted to preserve the public trust, to promote public confidence in government, to protect the integrity of government decision-making, and to enhance government efficiency. It established a basic set of rules regarding, among other things:

  • Gifts
  • Moonlighting/Part-Time Jobs
  • Volunteer Activities
  • Post-City Employment
  • Use of Confidential Information
  • Political Activities
  • Use of City Position for Personal Gain
  • Ownership Interests in Firms Doing Business with the City
  • Relationships Between Employees and Supervisors

[back to top]


Who Is Covered by Chapter 68 of the City Charter, the Conflicts of Interest Law?
All officials, officers, and employees of the City are covered by the Conflicts of Interest Law, whether they are paid or unpaid, whether they are full-time, part-time, or per diem, and regardless of their salary or rank. Members of City boards, commissions, and advisory committees are covered, except unpaid members of advisory committees. An advisory committee is a committee that has no authority to take any final action on behalf of the City, no authority to limit any action by the City, and no authority to take any action authorized by law. Members of community boards are covered. Chapter 68 covers all agencies of the City, including, for example, agencies such as the Housing Authority, the District Attorneys' Offices, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, and the Department of Education. Chapter 68 does not cover any courts. It also does not cover cultural institutions such as public libraries, museums, botanical and zoological gardens, and aquariums, nor does it cover CUNY. If you are not sure whether Chapter 68 applies to you, call the Board at (212) 442-1400.

[back to top]


How to Obtain Information on the Conflicts of Interest Law

It is always better to be safe than sorry. If you have questions regarding the Conflicts of Interest Law, call the Conflicts of Interest Board during business hours at (212) 442-1400. You may call anonymously, and all calls are strictly confidential. You may also write or fax the Board at 2 Lafayette Street, Suite 1010, New York, NY 10007; FAX: (212) 442-1407. For more detailed options and information, visit COIB's Legal Advice Unit page. For information on your agency's rules, contact your agency counsel or personnel officer.

Your agency may request a training session covering the basics of the conflicts of interest rules by calling Alex Kipp, Director of Training & Education at (212) 442-1421.

The Board makes available to the public a number of publications addressing various aspects of the Conflicts of Interest Law, including leaflets, outlines, articles, newsletters, videotapes, and a poster. Both general and specific situations are covered in these publications. The Board also makes available copies of Chapter 68, the Board's rules, A Plain Language Guide to the Conflicts of Interest Law, the Annual Disclosure Law, the Board's Advisory Opinions, and its Enforcement Dispositions. Call us to find out if one or more of these publications may be useful to you or your agency.

[back to top]


What Can Happen If You Violate the Conflicts of Interest Law

You may face severe penalties if you violate the City's conflicts of interest rules. Under your agency's disciplinary process, you may be suspended for some period or even fired. The Conflicts of Interest Board may fine you up to $25,000 for each violation of the Conflicts of Interest Law and recommend to your agency that you be suspended or fired.  It can also disgorge any money you gained by violating the law.  A violation of the Conflicts of Interest Law is also a crime, a misdemeanor that the District Attorney's office may prosecute. Upon conviction, you may be fined and sent to jail and lose your City job. The Conflicts of Interest Board may also void any contract or transaction that violates the Conflicts of Interest Law.

[back to top]


How to Report Conflicts of Interest Violations

If you have an allegation of a violation of Chapter 68, you may contact COIB at (212) 442-1400, call the Department of Investigation at (212) 825-5959, or contact your agency’s Inspector General. All complaints are confidential.  For more detailed options and information, visit COIB’s Filing a Complaint page.

[back to top]