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  1. What is the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law?
  2. To whom does the Conflicts Law apply?
  3. Does the Conflicts Law treat all officers and employees in State government alike?
  4. Does the Conflicts Law apply to independent contractors hired by the State?
  5. To what State agencies does the Conflicts Law apply?
  6. If I have information regarding what I suspect is a violation of the Conflicts Law, whom should I contact?
  7. Must I identify myself when I make an ethics allegation?
  8. Is there any limitation placed on the acceptance and solicitation of gifts, gratuities or other things of value by persons in State government?
  9. May a State officer or employee or a special State officer or employee accept campaign contributions if he is either an announced candidate for elected public office or acting as a campaign worker for such a candidate?
  10. May a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee contract with a State agency?
  11. Is the prohibition against contracting with any State agency absolute?
  12. Does the Conflicts Law impose any restrictions on State employees after they leave State service?
  13. How does the Commission determine whether an officer’s or employee’s involvement in a matter is substantial and direct?
  14. May the State Ethics Commission take action against a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee after he/she has left State service for violations that occurred during his/her State employment?
  15. Does the Conflicts Law contain a nepotism provision?
  16. How can I obtain a copy of my agency's Code of Ethics and the Plain Language Ethics Guide?
  17. May a State employee hold a professional license issued by the State?
  18. What penalties may be imposed on State officers and employees found guilty by the Commission of violations of the Conflicts Law or an agency Code of Ethics?
  19. May a State agency independently take disciplinary action against agency officers or employees for violations of the agency’s Code of Ethics?
  20. May State employees and/or members of their immediate families hold employment with the holder of or applicant for a casino license?
  21. May State employees accept complimentary services or discounts from a casino applicant or licensee?

  1. What is the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law?
    The New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law was passed by the Legislature in 1971, effective January 11, 1972, to govern the conduct of officers and employees in State government. The law has been amended on numerous occasions since that time.
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  2. To whom does the Conflicts Law apply?
    The Conflicts Law applies to all officers and employees in the Executive and Legislative Branches of State government. This includes compensated and uncompensated, part-time and full-time, and classified and unclassified personnel. The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards administers and enforces the Conflicts Law with respect to the Legislative Branch

    A January 2006 amendment to the Conflicts Law makes its provisions applicable to staff of a Governor-elect compensated with public funds and requires them to undergo ethics training and, if directed by the Governor-elect, to file financial disclosure statements and ethics compliance certifications

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  3. Does the Conflicts Law treat all officers and employees in State government alike?
    Not entirely.  The law differentiates between State officers and employees and special State officers and employees in several areas, such as representing a party other than the State before a State agency or contracting with a State agency. 

    A State officer or employee is a person who holds office or employment in a State agency, excluding an interstate agency, other than a member of the Legislature, or is appointed as a New Jersey member to an interstate agency.

     A special State officer or employee is a person holding office or employment in a State Agency, excluding an interstate agency, for which office or employment no compensation is authorized or provided by law, or no compensation other than a sum in reimbursement of expenses is authorized or provided by law, any person holding part-time elective or appointed office or employment in a State agency, excluding an interstate agency, or any person appointed as a New Jersey member to an interstate agency, whose duties are not full-time.

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  4. Does the Conflicts Law apply to independent contractors hired by the State?
    No.  The Conflicts Law does not directly govern the conduct of independent contractors hired by the state.  Independent contractors, however, may be governed by Executive Order No. 189 (Kean, July 1988), which sets forth standards for persons providing goods and services to or performing contracts for the State.  Some codes of ethics adopted by specific State agencies may contain provisions applicable to independent contractors hired by that agency.  It should be noted that whether a person is an independent contractor depends upon the specific circumstances of each case.

    A January 2006 amendment to the Conflicts Law requires the State Treasurer to post on the Internet a business ethics guide prepared in accordance with Executive Order No. 189 and requires those who seek to submit a bid, or negotiate for a State contract, to provide a certification that the bidder has read, understood and complied with the guide.  The business guide can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/purchase/ethics.htm

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  5. To what State agencies does the Conflicts Law apply?
    State agencies are specifically defined in the Conflicts Law to include: (a) any of the principal departments in the Executive Branch of State Government including any division, board, bureau, office, commission or other instrumentality within or created by a department; (b) the Legislature of the State;  (c) any office, board, or commission within or created by the Legislative Branch of State government; and  (d) to the extent consistent with law, any interstate agency to which New Jersey is a party and any independent State authority, commission, instrumentality or agency.

    The definition of State agency specifically excludes a county or municipality.

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  6. If I have information regarding what I suspect is a violation of the Conflicts Law, whom should I contact?
    You may call the State Ethics Commission’s toll-free hotline, 1-888-223-1355 or send a letter to the Executive Director, State Ethics Commission, P.O. Box 082, Trenton, NJ 08625-0082.

    Allegations may also be filed with the State agency employing the State officer or employee in accordance with procedures established by the agency. Upon receipt of an allegation, the State agency is required to file a copy of same with the State Ethics Commission. It is within the discretion of the Commission to direct the State agency to transfer the allegation to it. (N.J.A.C. 19:61-3.4) Notice of all determinations made by State agencies in connection with hearings conducted pursuant to N.J.A.C. 19:61-3.1 must be filed with the Commission. All determinations with respect to the Conflicts of Interest Law which involve the removal of a State officer or employee or any other disciplinary actions are effective only when approved by the Commission.

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  7. Must I identify myself when I make an ethics allegation?
    No. The complainant may remain anonymous. If the complainant does identify him/herself, that information remains confidential.
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  8. Is there any limitation placed on the acceptance and solicitation of gifts, gratuities or other things of value by persons in State government?
    Yes. The Conflicts Law contains several provisions dealing with this subject.

    Section 14 of the Conflicts Law prohibits a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee from directly or indirectly accepting anything of value, including any gift, favor, service, employment or offer of employment, which either he knows or has reason to believe is being offered for the purpose of influencing him in the performance of his official duties.

    Section 24 of the Conflicts Law provides that a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee may not directly or indirectly solicit, receive, or agree to receive any compensation, reward, employment, gift, honorarium, out-of-State travel or subsistence expense or other thing of value for any service, advice, assistance, appearance, speech, or other matter related to his official duties. Section 24 excepts reasonable fees for published works on matters within one’s official duties and establishes limits on travel expenses. N.J.A.C. 19:61-6.1 et seq. outlines the circumstances under which a State official may accept a direct or indirect benefit for such activities. 

    N.J.A.C. 19:61-6.9 and 10, the Commission’s Gift Guidelines outline the steps that should be taken if a State officer or employee receives or is offered a gift. Unsolicited gifts or benefits of trivial or nominal value, such as complimentary articles offered to the public in general, and gifts received as a result of mass advertising mailings to the general business public may be retained by the recipient or the recipient's department for general use if such use does not create an impression of a conflict of interest or a violation of the public trust. An impression of a conflict may be created, for example, if an employee of a regulatory agency uses a pocket calendar conspicuously marked with the name of a company that it regulates or if an office in a State agency displays a wall calendar from a vendor, creating the impression of an endorsement. 

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  9. May a State officer or employee or a special State officer or employee accept campaign contributions if he is either an announced candidate for elected public office or acting as a campaign worker for such a candidate?
    Yes. The Conflicts Law specifically provides that the sections containing the acceptance of gifts shall not apply to contributions to the campaign of an announced candidate for elected public office. The individual, however, should be cautious of other specific provisions outside of the Conflicts Law dealing with political activity.

    For additional discussion of such activities, see State Employee’s Participation in Political Activities.

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  10. May a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee contract with a State agency?
    Special State Officers and Employees.  The Conflicts Law prohibits a special State officer or employee from knowingly undertaking or executing any contract, agreement,  sale or purchase of the value of  $25 or more with the State agency where he/she is employed or is an officer.  This prohibition also includes such activity by the special State officer’s or employee’s partners or any corporation which he/she controls or in which he/she owns or controls more than 1% of the stock.

    State Officers and Employees.  The Law prohibits State officers and employees from knowingly undertaking or executing in whole or in part any contract, agreement, sale, or purchase of the value of $25 or more which is made, entered into, awarded or granted by any State agency.  It is important to recognize that this prohibition is not limited to the State agency where the State officer or employee is employed.  It extends to all State agencies.  This prohibition also extends to the partners and business associates of the State officer or employee.  Such persons are prohibited from executing an agreement or sale with State agency through any corporation which he controls or in which he owns or controls more than 1% of the stock. 

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  11. Is the prohibition against contracting with any State agency absolute?
    Section 19 excepts three categories of contracts from the general prohibition.  However, before entering into a contract falling within any of these categories,  approval must first be obtained from the Executive Commission on Ethical Standards.  The three categories of contracts are:

    First, those purchases, contracts, agreement or sales that are made after public notice and competitive bidding.  The Commission typically approves such contracts unless the contract in question is with the State employee’s own agency.  In these situations, the Commission has determined that such contracts raise the issue of an appearance of impropriety under section 23(e)(7) of the Conflicts Law.

    Second, those that may be awarded without public advertising and competitive bidding pursuant to section 5 of chapter 48 of the laws of 1944, N.J.S.A. 52:34-10.

    Third, any contract of insurance entered into by the Director of the Division of Purchase and Property, Department of Treasury, pursuant to section 10 of article 6  chapter  112 of the laws of 1944, N.J.S.A. 52: 27B-62. 

    Section 19.1 excepts contracts for the development of scientific or technological discoveries or innovations in which the State agency has a property right if the State agency has a procedure in its code of ethics authorizing these contracts which minimizes actual conflicts of interest and the contract complies with the code procedure.

    Section 19.2 excepts rental agreements with a State agency which operates a facility which rents space or provides services to assist small businesses which employ 50 people or less, pursuant to the same terms and conditions as those offered to members of the public generally.

    May a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee represent a person or business before a State agency on a matter unrelated to his official duties and responsibilities?

    Special State Officers and Employees.  A special State officer or employee is specifically prohibited from either agreeing to or in fact representing,  appearing for, or negotiating on behalf of any person or party other than the State in connection with any cause, proceeding, application or other matter pending before the particular office, bureau, board, council, commission, authority, or agency, in which he holds office or employment.  This prohibition also extends to any partnership, firm or corporation in which the special State officer or employee has an interest and to any partner, officer, or employee of that partnership, firm or corporation.

    Interest is defined in section 13(g) as ownership or control of more than 10% of the profits or assets of a firm, association, or partnership or 10% of the stock in a corporation for profit, other than a professional corporation, and ownership or control of more than 1% of the profits of a firm, association or partnership or 1% of the stock of a corporation which is the holder of or applicant for a casino license or any holding or intermediary company with respect thereto.  Shareholders, associates or professional employees of a professional service corporation are deemed to have an interest in the professional service corporation regardless of the extent or amount of shareholder interest. 

    State Officers and Employees.  As to State officers employees, the restriction is even broader.  They are specifically prohibited from either agreeing to or in fact representing, appearing for, or negotiating on behalf of any person or party, other than the State, in connection with any cause, proceeding, application, or other matter pending before any State agency.  This prohibition extends to any partnership, firm, or corporation in which the State officer or employee has an interest or to any partner, officer, or employee of that partnership, firm, or corporation.

    Are there any exceptions to the prohibition against representing a person before a State agency?

    Yes.  State officers and employees and special State officers and employees are not prohibited from representing a party other than the State in any of the following instances:

    1. before a court of record;
    2. in regard to a claim for Workers’ Compensation;
    3. in a proceeding related to the determination or review of transfer, inheritance or estate taxes;
    4. in connection with the filing of corporate or other documents in the office of the Secretary of State;
    5. before the Division on Civil Rights;
    6. before the New Jersey State Board of Mediation;
    7. before the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission;
    8. before the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund  Board solely for the purpose of filing a notice of intention;  
    9. before any State agency on behalf of a county, municipality, school district, or any authority, agency, or commission except where the State is an adverse party and provided he/she is not holding office or employment in the State agency in which any such proceeding is pending.

    Does representation only involve personally appearing before a State agency on behalf of an individual or entity?

    No.  Under Commission precedent, the following constitute representational activities:

    • correspondence to a State agency on behalf of a third party
    • telephone calls to a State agency on behalf of a third party
    • a State employee’s signature on an application or other document submitted to a State agency on behalf of a third party (e.g., engineering reports)

    May a State employee prepare New Jersey State tax returns?

    State employees, other than employees of the Division of Taxation, are permitted to prepare State tax returns.  However, in the event that a question arises regarding the return, the State employee is prohibited from appearing before the Division of Taxation on behalf of a third party.

    May State employees act in their official capacity in a matter affecting themselves?

    Section 23(e)(4 ) of the Conflicts Law provides that a State officer or employee shall not act in his official capacity in any matter wherein he has a direct or indirect personal financial interest that might be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment.

    Section 15 of the Conflicts Law permits a State officer of employee to represent himself in negotiations or proceedings concerning his own interest in real property.

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  12. Does the Conflicts Law impose any restrictions on State employees after they leave State service?
    Yes.  Section 17, the post-employment provision, provides that after the termination of  employment, no State officer or employee or special State officer or employee shall either agree to or in fact represent, appear for, or negotiate on behalf of any person or party, other than the State, in connection with any cause, proceeding, application, or other matter with respect to which he/she made any investigation, rendered any ruling, gave an opinion, or was otherwise substantially and directly involved during the course of his/her State service.  There is no time limit on this prohibition.  The restriction applies to the partnership, firm or corporation under the following circumstances: (1) if the former State officer or employee or special State officer or employee is a shareholder, associate or professional employee of a firm organized as a professional service corporation or (2) if the former State officer or employee or special State officer or employee owns or controls more than 10% of the stock of a corporation or more than 10% of the profits or assets of a firm, association or partnership.  A detailed explanation of the post-employment restriction and sample cases are available in the Guideline, Post-Employment Restrictions.

    Certain State officers and employees and special State officers and employees are also subject to the Section 17.2(c) Casino Post-Employment Restriction.  Section 17.2(c), the "Casino Ethics Amendment," prohibits a "person" from holding, directly or indirectly, an interest in, or holding employment with, or representing, appearing for, or negotiating on behalf of, any holder of, or applicant for, a casino license in connection with any cause, application or matter, or any holding or intermediary company with respect to such holder of, application for, a casino license in connection with any phase of casino development, permitting, licensure or any other matter whatsoever related to casino activity.  This prohibition extends for a period of two years.  Section 17.2(c) was amended on December 20, 1993 to provide an exception for members of a "person's" immediate family.  Under the amendment, a family member is permitted to hold employment with the holder of, or applicant for, a casino license, if the Executive Commission determines that such employment will not create a conflict of interest or reasonable risk of the public perception of a conflict of interest.  An amendment effective January 25, 1995 provides that a non-policy-making employee terminated as a result of a reduction in force may, prior to the end of the two-year period, accept employment with a casino license holder or applicant if the Executive Commission determines that there is no actual conflict of interest or the public perception of a conflict. 

    Included in the Section 17.2(a) definition of "person" are any State officer or employee subject to financial disclosure by law or executive order and any other State officer or employee with responsibility for matters affecting casino activity; any special State officer or employee with responsibility for matters affecting casino activity; the Governor; any member of the Legislature or full-time member of the Judiciary; any full-time professional employee of the Office of the Governor, or the Legislature; members of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority; the head of a principal department; the assistant or deputy heads of a principal department, including all assistant and deputy commissioners; the head of any division of a principal department; any member of the governing body, or the municipal judge or the municipal attorney of a municipality wherein a casino is located; any member of or attorney for the planning board or zoning board of adjustment of a municipality wherein a casino is located, or any professional planner, or consultant regularly employed or retained by such planning board of zoning board of adjustment.

     The restrictions contained in section 17.2(c) apply to "persons" and immediate family members not granted a waiver and to any partnership, firm or corporation with which such "person" is associated or in which he/she has an interest.  The Conflicts Law defines "interest" as the ownership or control of more than 10% of the stock of a corporation or more than 10% of the profits or assets of a firm. 

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  13. How does the Commission determine whether an officer’s or employee’s involvement in a matter is substantial and direct?
    The Commission reviews each situation on a case-by-case basis and considers such factors as whether the former State officer or employee had oversight responsibility, attended meetings, drafted or signed documents, made decisions or granted approval in connection with the matter in question.
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  14. May the State Ethics Commission take action against a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee after he/she has left State service for violations that occurred during his/her State employment?
    Yes. However, a January 2006 amendment to the Conflicts Law requires that the investigation be commenced within two years of the termination of service.
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  15. Does the Conflicts Law contain a nepotism provision?
    The Conflicts Law was amended in January 2006 to include a nepotism provision.  Under that provision:

    • Employment of a relative of the Governor in an unclassified State position is prohibited.
    • Employment of a relative of a commissioner or department head in an unclassified State position is prohibited.
    • Employment of a relative of an assistant or deputy commissioner in an unclassified State position in the department over which that individual exercises authority, supervision or control is prohibited.
    • A relative of a division head or assistant division head may be employed in the principal department in which the division head or assistant head serves, but the division head or assistant head may not exercise any authority, supervision or control over the relative.
    • A relative of an appointed member of a governing or advisory body of an independent authority, board, commission, agency or instrumentality of the State may not be employed in an office or position in that entity.
    • A relative of an appointed New Jersey member of a governing body of a bi-state or multi-state agency may not be employed in an office or position in that agency, to the extent permitted by law.
    • A State officer or employee or a special State officer or employee may not supervise or exercise authority with regard to personnel actions over a relative.
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  16. How can I obtain a copy of my agency's Code of Ethics and the Plain Language Ethics Guide?
    Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 19:61-2.2(c), each agency is required to have a distribution procedure in place to ensure that each current and new officer or employee receives a copy of the agency code of ethics. Each officer or employee must sign a receipt indicating the date on which the code was received and an acknowledgment that the officer or employee is responsible for reading the code and is bound by it. Any officer or employee who has not received and signed for a copy of the agency code of ethics and the plain language ethics guide should contact the agency Ethics Liaison Officer or Human Resources Department. Codes of ethics and the plain language ethics guide are also available on our web site.

    How can I find the name of my agency Ethics Liaison Officer?

    A list of agency Ethics Liaison Officers, and contact information, is available on our website.

    Does the State Ethics Commission provide training?

    Yes. A January 2006 amendment to the Conflicts Law requires that all State officers and employees and special State officers and employees receive periodic training. You should contact you agency Ethics Liaison Officer or the State Ethics Commission Training Officer regarding this requirement.

    There are also training modules available on our web site. We encourage State officers and employees to use this modules to familiarize themselves with the ethics requirements.

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  17. May a State employee hold a professional license issued by the State?
    State employees are permitted to hold such licenses but must file notice of same with the agency Ethics Liaison Officer. Agency secondary employment approval is required for the use of such licenses. The Conflicts Law requires that the Commission be notified of any activity in connection with a business, profession, trade or occupation subject to State licensing or regulation.
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  18. What penalties may be imposed on State officers and employees found guilty by the Commission of violations of the Conflicts Law or an agency Code of Ethics?
    Pursuant to section 21(i), any State officer or employee found guilty of violating the Conflicts Law or an agency Code of Ethics can be fined between $500 and $10,000 and/or suspended from office or employment for a period of one year for each violation.

    The January 2006 Conflicts Law amendment also permits the State Ethics Commission to order restitution, demotion, censure or reprimand for an ethics violation. 

    If the Commission determines that the conduct in question constitutes “willful and continuous” disregard of the Conflicts Law or an agency Code of Ethics, the State officer or employee may be removed from office or employment and may be barred from holding any public office or employment in the State for a period of up to 5 years.

    The January 2006 Conflicts Law amendment also permits the State Ethics Commission to impose a civil penalty of between $500 and $10,000 for violations of post-employment restrictions by former State officers and employees and special State officers and employees and increases the fine for a violation of the ethics laws that is punishable as a disorderly persons offense from $500 to $1,000. 

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  19. May a State agency independently take disciplinary action against agency officers or employees for violations of the agency’s Code of Ethics?
    Pursuant to section 23(d) of the Conflicts Law, a State agency may take disciplinary action against agency officers or employees for violations of the agency’s Code of Ethics; however, the agency must first obtain the approval of the Commission. Discipline may include removal, suspension, demotion or other disciplinary action
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  20. May State employees and/or members of their immediate families hold employment with the holder of or applicant for a casino license?
    A State officer or employee, other than a State officer or employee included in the section 17.2(a) definition of “person”, may hold employment with the holder of or applicant for a casino license if in the judgment of the State Ethics Commission, such employment will not interfere with the responsibilities of the State officer or employee and will not create a conflict of interest or reasonable risk of the public perception of a conflict of interest. Waivers may be obtained by contacting the Commission.

    Members of the immediate family of a State officer or employee, or of a person, may also hold employment with the holder of or applicant for a casino license by obtaining a waiver from the Commission. Immediate family member is defined as a spouse, child, parent or sibling residing in the same household.

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  21. May State employees accept complimentary services or discounts from a casino applicant or licensee?
    State employees may accept a service or discount that is offered to members of the general public in like circumstances.
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