What is an Advisory Opinion?

An Advisory Opinion is the State Public Integrity Commission’s (PIC or Commission) interpretation of the ethics laws governing the conduct of Delaware’s state, county and municipal employees, officers, and appointees. The opinion provides guidance on whether specific conduct will or will not violate the State Code of Conduct. Requesting an Advisory Opinion is completely voluntary.

Who may request an Advisory Opinion?

Any State employee, State board member or representative of a State agency may request an Advisory Opinion. Local governments (municipal and county) that have not adopted their own Code of Conduct also fall under the Commission’s jurisdiction and may also request an Advisory Opinion. Members of the public requesting an opinion from the Commission must do so through the Complaint process discussed below.

Why would I request an Advisory Opinion?

An opinion will clarify if you should or should not engage in specific conduct based upon the facts of your particular situation. It can also protect you against a formal Complaint. If you fully disclose all of the pertinent facts surrounding your circumstance to the Commission and follow its advice, the law provides protection against disciplinary action.

How do I request an Advisory Opinion?

Requests for Advisory Opinions must be submitted in writing at least one week before the next scheduled meeting (see below for schedule). You may submit a letter or send an email to Commission Counsel at deborah.moreau@state.de.us. The Commission does not require that your request be submitted in a specific format but your letter or email should include: your reason for requesting an opinion; your job description; and your contact information. After reviewing your request, Commission Counsel will contact you with further instructions and/or a request for further information.

Will my request be confidential?

Yes. We will not disclose your request for an Advisory Opinion.

When and where does the Commission meet?

The Commission meets on the third Tuesday of every month during regular business hours. The meetings are held in our offices at 410 Federal Street (2nd floor), Dover, DE 19901. We are located next door to the Kent County Courthouse and directly across from the west entrance to Legislative Hall.

Do I have to attend the Commission meeting?

Yes. The Commissioners may ask for additional information. It also affords you the opportunity to ask questions of the Commissioners. Generally speaking, your presence is required for approximately 15-20 mintues.

After the Commission meeting, how long will I have to wait for my Advisory Opinion?

You will be notified of the Commission’s decision the same day. A formal letter explaining the law and the Commission’s reasoning will be sent to you approximately one week later.

What is a Complaint?

A Complaint is a formal allegation that one or more ethics laws in the State Code of Conduct are being violated by employees or officials of state or local governments within the State of Delaware.

How do I file a Complaint?

A Complaint can be filed by any person, including members of the public. A Complaint must be in writing (an email submission is not acceptable) and it must be formally notarized pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 4328(3). There are several different ways a document can be notarized. Make sure your submission is notarized pursuant to subsection (3). If the Complaint is not properly notarized, it will be deemed to have a procedural defect and the Commission will dismiss the Complaint. The Complaint must allege the specific provisions of the Code of Conduct being violated as well as sufficient factual information upon which the Commission can make a determination as to whether the State’s ethics laws are being violated.

What if a Complaint is filed against me?

You will be formally notified of the allegations against you, and of the rights you have, such as a right to legal counsel, right to a hearing, right to cross-examine witnesses, right to examine evidence, etc. An administrative hearing will be held to determine whether there has been a violation of the Code of Conduct. If a violation is found, the information will be made public. If you do not agree with the Commission’s decision you have the right to appeal to the Superior Court.

What are the penalties?

Some provisions of the Code of Conduct impose a criminal penalty which could include up to a year in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Other provisions impose administrative sanctions such as a letter of reprimand, suspension, demotion or other appropriate action.

Do I have to wait six months after retirement before I can begin working as a casual/seasonal employee or contracting with the State?

The State has a two year prohibition against leaving State service and going to work for one of the State’s vendors doing the exact same work and working on the same projects you worked on while employed by the State. The ‘six month’ rule is a pension requirement. Please check with the State Pension Office.