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Thinking About a New Job?
Questions You Need to Ask

Employees considering leaving City service need to be aware of ethics laws that could affect how they search for their new job, and, in some cases, that could restrict what they may or may not do in their new position.

These “revolving door” provisions are part of the City’s Governmental Ethics Ordinance, LAMC § 49.5.1 et seq. State law may also apply in certain situations. Together, these laws are intended to keep former public officials and employees from unwittingly – or intentionally – trading on their former positions to unfairly benefit or otherwise give an undue competitive edge to, a private entity. At the same time, these laws reflect the legitimate interests of those who wish to have diverse experiences both in and out of government during their careers by applying only in very specific situations.

Below are five questions you should remember to ask yourself if you’re contemplating a move to a new job outside of City government. Because the application of these laws is very fact-specific, if you have questions about how these laws might apply to you, feel free to contact the City Ethics Commission’s Program Operations staff at (213) 978-1960 for additional guidance.

1. Is my potential new job with a private entity or a governmental agency?

While the restrictions discussed here do not apply if you are seeking employment with another government agency, the status of some entities (such as some private-public partnerships) may not be as clear as you might think. When in doubt, call us for further assistance.

2. Can I explore potential employment with people
I’m interacting with in my current City job?

LAMC § 49.5.12 places certain restrictions on when City officials and employees may negotiate future employment with those who have matters pending before them.

A member of the City Council, as well as a member of any board, commission, committee, or other voting body who is required to file a Statement of Economic Interest, is prohibited from negotiating future employment with any person or entity (except a governmental agency) that has a matter pending before the official or the official’s agency that falls within the regulatory, proprietary, or contractual jurisdiction of that agency.

Other officials and employees required to file Statements of Economic Interests may not negotiate future employment with any person or entity (except a governmental agency) that has a matter pending within the regulatory, proprietary, or contractual jurisdiction of his or her agency that is currently pending before that officer or employee. To better understand this restriction, please see the following illustration.

EXAMPLE
For the past six months, Council staffer Sylvia has been assigned as the point person for a mixed-use, moderate-income development in her boss’s district. As part of her work on the issue, she’s run interference with housing and community groups, the developer, and that developer’s lobbyist to help make sure that the plan to be considered by her boss’s committee will meet the community’s desire for green space, ample parking, and appropriate traffic mitigation. Her work has been well received by all sides, and the lobbying firm she’s been working with on the issue would like to hire her to handle its projects citywide. Following a meeting one day, Sylvia and the lobbyist, Link, continue their discussion over coffee. As they do, Link offers Sylvia employment with his firm as its new community relations director. What should Sylvia do?

Because City law bans a City official from directly or indirectly negotiating the possibility of future employment with someone who has a matter currently pending before that officer or employee, Sylvia should not engage in discussions about future employment with Link at this time. If Sylvia wants to pursue employment negotiations with Link, she should avoid having those discussions until the matter she’s been working on has concluded. Alternatively, she should recuse herself from any involvement with that matter and ask that it be permanently reassigned to another person in her office, thereby freeing her to engage in employment negotiations with Link.

(In addition, remember that City employees and officials may not act on any matter involving someone with whom they have an agreement for future employment. Both City and state law require recusal on matters concerning or affecting a prospective employer. (LAMC § 49.5.12 D, and Cal Govt Code § 87407 and related regulations.))

3. Will the duties of my new job include lobbying City agencies?

If so, keep in mind that former City officials and employees have restrictions on when they may perform compensated lobbying activities in an attempt to influence the actions of City agencies and what matters they may seek to influence. These restrictions vary based on the position the former City official or employee held, on the nature of the matter, and on his or her level of involvement with that matter while in City service.

For two years after leaving City service, elected officials, under LAMC §49.5.11(D), are forbidden from receiving compensation to directly attempt to influence any City agency on any matter. That is, communicating with a City agency on behalf of another person, for pay, with the purpose of influencing any action or decision pending before that agency, is banned.

Other high-level officials are forbidden from such activities for one year. City law defines these high-level officials broadly -- in addition to elected officials, the definition includes elected officials’ designated staff members, the Chief Legislative Analyst and the City Administrative Officer, members of the Board of Public Works, the Ethics Commission and its Director, and the Planning Commission and its Director. For a complete list of “high-level officials,” see the Governmental Ethics Ordinance at LAMC § 49.5.2.

Other City officials who are required to file a Statements of Economic Interests, but who are not high-level officials, are forbidden from receiving compensation for attempting to influence their former agencies for a period of one year. (LAMC §49.5.11(E))

4. After the initial “cooling-off” period following my City service,
how would my activities be restricted?

After leaving City service, City officials and employees are forbidden from engaging in compensated attempts to influence any City action and assisting or advising any other person other than an agency regarding matters in which they were “personally and substantially” involved for the life of that matter. (LAMC § 49.5.11(A))

“Personal and substantial” participation includes: making or voting on a decision, making a recommendation on such a vote or decision, rendering advice, performing investigations, or conducting research.

This prohibition only applies if the specific matter is still pending before that City agency, or if the agency is a party to or has a direct or substantial interest in the specific matter. Also, depending on the circumstances, Government Code § 1090 may bar former employees and officials or their new employers from receiving a City contract or benefiting from a City contract if the official or employee was involved in creating the contract or the opportunity for the contract while with the City.

5. These issues sound complicated. Where can I go for further guidance?

We understand that matters like these can be both sensitive and complex. Ethics Commission staff can provide informal guidance to help you better understand the laws and how they may affect the choices you make.

A good place to start if you have questions may be the advice we have issued in the past on these issues. Over the years, we’ve issued a variety of written formal advice to provide more clarity about how the law applies in various specific circumstances. Our searchable advice letter index can be accessed at the following link.

Please remember, however, that how the law applied in one case may be different from how it applies in your case, depending on the facts of your situation. Therefore, we urge you to contact our Program Operations staff at (213) 978-1960 with any questions you may have. We’re here to help and we look forward to hearing from you!

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