Ohio Ethics Commission issues advisory opinion

On October 2, 2020, the Ohio Ethics Commission issued formal Advisory Opinion No. 2020 – 03, addressing ethics questions about public officials attending ceremonial events. The opinion states that state or local public officials or employees many not solicit, accept or use their position “to secure an invitation to an event of substantial value from any party that is doing or seeking to do business with, interested in matters before, or regulated by his or her public agency.” Officials are also prohibited from accepting compensation (outside of what is allowed by law) for performing official duties or any act in their public capacity.

However, Ohio law does not prohibit a public official or employee from attending a ceremonial event, such as the opening of a new exhibit, ground-breaking or ribbon-cutting, or other similar event, in his or her official capacity where the official or employee is performing a ceremonial or honorary function appropriate to his or her public position. The Commission provides a list of criteria to determine if an event is objectively related to the public official’s or employee’s public position.

The opinion went into effect when it was accepted by the Commission.

Ethics