Sussex councilwoman will not sign conflict-of-interest form

Green not complying with county requirement to fill out disclosure notice
February 3, 2023

During a Sussex County ethics training session Feb. 2 presented by Delaware's Public Integrity Commission, Sussex County Councilwoman Cindy Green revealed she had refused to sign a conflict-of-interest form, a requirement for all county employees each year. Although, Green said, she signed the disclosure form last year.

“I prefer to answer to the public than the administration,” she said. “I'm not sure it's appropriate to sign it because I have no conflicts of interest.”

All other members of county council have signed the disclosure form.

As she made the revelation, she asked commission attorney Deborah Moreau, who moderated the session, if she could opt out of signing it.

“It’s not required by us and you can choose not to sign it,” she answered.

However, Moreau said, not signing the form could create problems for her because the public would not understand why she would sign it one year and not the next.

“People can ask me and I'll tell them I have no conflicts of interest. I'm not a developer. My husband works for the post office and we are farmers,” she said.

“It could come up in a Freedom of Information Act request and that would be creating a problem for you,” Moreau told Green.

Green was elected to serve District 2 in 2020 after serving for 10 years as Sussex County register of wills. District 2 includes the areas in and around Bridgeville, Greenwood, Ellendale, Lincoln, Milford and Milton.

The training session, which took place at Delaware Technical and Community College, was open to the public.

About the disclosure

The disclosure form states: “Any employee or official in a position to influence county actions shall refrain from business, professional and other relationships, which may affect the exercise of their independent judgment in dealing with county suppliers of goods and services.

“An employee having a conflicting outside personal economic relationship, or any perceived conflict of interest, shall disclose the details in a written statement, to include the nature and scope of his/her outside personal interest and the extent of financial benefit received, at least one time, or more frequently if his/her situation changes.”

By signing the form, employees agree to the following: “I am aware of and understand my responsibility to avoid any real, perceived or potential conflict of interest. I will comply with the code of conduct. I will abstain from realizing personal gain through conduct, which is inconsistent with the proper engagement of my employment capacity with Sussex County.”

The form includes five questions:

1. Are you or any family member, an officer, director, trustee or employee of a commercial or nonprofit corporation, partnership, association or other organization which has, or may have, an economic or other relationship with Sussex County?

2. Do you or any family member have a material interest in any corporation, partnership or other entity which has, or may have, an economic or other relationship with Sussex County?

3. Have you or any of your family members disclosed or used any information relating to the county's business for your personal profit or advantage?

4. Have you or any of your family members accepted gifts, gratuities or entertainment that may influence your judgment or actions concerning the business of the county since Jan. 1, 2022?

5. Have you engaged in any other financial, personal or other activities with the county, which might create an appearance of conflict of interest to a reasonable person? Or are there any transactions you have had with the county not covered by the questionnaire that you believe should be disclosed?

The county's code

The county has adopted the state code of conduct, which falls under the purview of the Public Integrity Commission.

County staff had its first ethics training in 2014, and as a result, starting in 2015, all employees are required to sign a conflict-of-interest disclosure. Since 2019, county council, planning & zoning commission members and board of adjustment members have also had to sign a separate disclosure form related to the county’s purchasing and procurement policies and procedures.

County council members have been required to sign the conflict-of-interest disclosure since 2020.

The county had received feedback from its auditors that financial and conflict-of-interest disclosures from elected and appointed officials were needed to meet accounting standards and practices. In addition, having the forms on file is essential for any entity receiving federal funds.

About the commission

The Public Integrity Commission administers and implements Delaware's Code of Conduct (ethics law) for the executive branch of government, financial disclosures for all three branches, and lobbyists' registration and expense reporting laws.

The executive branch includes local and county government officers and employees, state employees who are division directors and above, and those appointed to boards and commissions. The Code of Conduct applies to all of the above unless their city or county adopts a code at least as stringent as the state code.

The commission rules on complaints filed with the office by issuing advisory opinions on a case-by-case basis; publishing its opinions annually; offering training through the State Personnel Office’s Training Unit; and scheduling classes with agencies when requested. It also may act on sworn complaints, which allege violations of law.


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