The provision of the Ohio Ethics Law called Post-Employment is also commonly referred to as the Revolving Door law.
This important provision of the law prevents public servants from misusing their influence in a current job, with a former employer, or with any former employees they had supervised. It helps to ensure that the public is fairly represented in all interactions with the public and private sectors. For example, the post-employment law prevents public servants from something often called “nest-feathering” – or using a public position to create a private sector job for themselves. It also prohibits illegal representation.
The post-employment law prohibits a public official from “representing” any person on a matter in which the public official personally participated. The word “person” has broad application. Representing any “person” can mean representing any:
- public entity or
- other entity.
There are two things that define “representation:”
- The first is that it is any form of communication; written or oral, formal or informal. This could include a meeting, a phone call, an email, letter, or even a hallway conversation.
- The second aspect of “representation” is that the communication is received, at least in part, by someone in public service, whether it is someone from your former public agency or any other public entity.
The Ethics Law prohibits public officials or employees from representing someone before any public entity on a matter in which he/she personally participated. Be aware that “personal participation” has wide application. Whether it was final decision-making, offering advice on a project or even supervising those assigned to a project, personal participation means that that person exercised substantial discretion in a matter.
For example, if there is a matter that was handled by your agency, but you had absolutely no involvement – no oversight, recommendations, or any other related activity – then you did not personally participate in that matter. If you were at all involved, that means you cannot represent someone before a public entity on that matter.
Yes. The first exception does not prohibit someone from representing or assisting a public employer. For example, if someone retires from a public agency and the agency later approaches the retiree to work several hours a week on a consulting, the former public employee would not be prohibited from participating in matters on which he/she had formerly worked.
The law also does not prohibit someone from certain administrative activities in a new job. For example, a former official would not be prohibited from doing ministerial activities, such as preparing tax returns and filing applications for permits or licenses.
Finally, as previously noted, for most public officials and employees, the post-employment restriction applies during public service and for one year afterward. For certain categories of people, however, there is a two – year post-employment restriction:
- First, those who exercised legal discretion in solid and hazardous waste matters;
- Secondly, former commissioners and attorney examiners of the Public Utilities Commission who would be prohibited from representing utilities before state agencies; and finally,
- Former commission members or staff of the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
To understand this area of the law, it’s important to understand what a public contract is. Essentially, a public contract is any time a public agency or public entity spends public money, regardless of the amount. Public contracts include both goods and services, such as office supplies, equipment, vehicles, consulting services, or construction work.
The Ethics Law prohibits a public official or employee from profiting from a public contract that authorized by that public servant or by a board or committee on which he serves. For example, let’s say you were part of a process to secure the services of a vendor for your agency. During the vendor’s work with your agency, a representative of that company approaches you about applying for a job with the company. Because you participated in the process to hire that vendor, the Ethics Law prohibits you from profiting from that public contract by going to work for that company.
Remember, this restriction applies even if you did not personally authorize the public contract, but the public board or committee on which you serve did. This is true even if you abstained from the vote or decision-making process of the board on which you serve.
This public contract prohibition applies to all public officials and employees during their public service and for one year afterward.
The final prohibition under the post-employment statute addresses issues that are confidential. Public officials and employees cannot use or disclose confidential information that was acquired during public service without appropriate legal authorization. This restriction applies throughout public service and does not have a time limit afterwards. As long as the information is legally confidential, a former public official or employee cannot disclose it.