The Enforcement Division reviews each complaint received. If the complaint falls within the Commission's jurisdiction, an initial staff review may be conducted to determine if the facts warrant a formal investigation. The initial staff review is an informal, fact-gathering process. Many complaints are resolved confidentially at the conclusion of the initial staff review with a private educational letter being sent to the subject of the complaint. In these cases, no formal charge of a violation is brought and the matter remains confidential.
If the Enforcement Division determines a case should be formally investigated, authorization is sought from the Commissioners to conduct a "preliminary inquiry." During a preliminary inquiry, the Enforcement Division conducts its investigation and can issue summonses to compel the production of documents and testimony under oath.
At the conclusion of a preliminary inquiry, the Enforcement Division reports the results of its investigation to the Commissioners, who vote on whether "reasonable cause" exists to believe that the conflict of interest law has been violated. If the Commissioners make a reasonable cause finding, the subject of the complaint is entitled to a public "adjudicatory hearing" before the Commission to present evidence and testimony on his own behalf. At the conclusion of an adjudicatory hearing, the Commissioners issue a "decision and order" stating whether there was a violation of the conflict law and what civil penalty, if any, will be assessed. A person has the right to appeal the Commission's decision directly to Superior Court. If a subject does not wish to contest the reasonable cause finding in an adjudicatory hearing, he/she can settle the matter by means of a public "disposition agreement," in which the subject admits to violating the conflict of interest law and agrees to pay a civil penalty.
If, after a preliminary inquiry, the Commission finds that there is "no reasonable cause" to believe the conflict of interest law has been violated, the case is closed and the matter remains confidential.
Contact for State Ethics Commission Investigations Overview
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