(a) Who May File – Format.
(1) As stated in WSSC 1.70.080(a), the Commission or the General Manager may file a confidential written complaint with the Board. If the complaint is based upon concerns raised by an employee, the employee shall be considered the complainant. In addition, an individual or entity outside WSSC may file a complaint directly with the Board.
(2) The Board of Ethics may issue a complaint on its own motion based on sufficient information that an employee is not in compliance with the Code of Ethics. The Board may also, on its own motion, amend a complaint filed by another person. A complaint initiated by the Board, or any amendment to a complaint filed by another, shall be signed on behalf of the Board by the Chairperson or another member as authorized by the Board. A complaint filed by the Board shall comply with the format stated in this section.
(3) All complaints shall be in writing addressed to the Board of Ethics, c/o Office of Internal Audit, 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, Maryland 20707. The complainant shall utilize the form attached hereto as Form C. The complaint must be in writing and must allege facts that would support a reasonable person in concluding that a violation of the Code of Ethics has occurred. The complaint must include the signature, address and telephone number of the complainant.
(4) Within 10 days after receipt of a complaint, the Board shall send a letter to the complainant acknowledging receipt of the complaint.
(b) Preliminary Investigation, Review, and Consideration.
(1) Initial Finding of Reasonable Cause and Referral to Staff Counsel. Within 30 days of receiving a complaint, or at the next scheduled Board meeting, whichever is earlier, the Board shall meet to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the Code of Ethics has occurred. A quorum at any meeting in which the Board shall make a reasonable cause determination shall consist of three Board members. If reasonable cause is found, the Board will refer the complaint to the General Counsel who will assign staff counsel to the Board. In addition, within 10 days of finding reasonable cause, the Board shall notify respondent of the alleged charges, that the Board has determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the charges, if true, constitute a violation of the Code, and that the matter has been referred to the General Counsel’s Office for investigation.
(2) No Reasonable Cause Found. If the Board determines that there is no reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the Code of Ethics has occurred, then the Board shall send a letter to the complainant within 10 days of the determination stating that no reasonable cause was found and that the complaint is dismissed.
(3) Collection of Evidence.
(i) In accordance with WSSC 1.70.080(c), the staff counsel shall collect evidence regarding the complaint to refer to the Board.
(ii) In collecting evidence to submit to the Board, the assigned staff counsel may utilize the following methods: personal interview, interrogatory, deposition, review of documents, or any other usual investigatory method.
(4) Notification and Respondent Action.
(i) Staff counsel shall give notice to the complainant and to the respondent of the anticipated presentation of evidence to the Board at least 15 days before filing the preliminary report required by subsection (b)(5) of this section.
(ii) In accordance with WSSC 1.70.080(d), the respondent may take action to cure each alleged violation within 15 days of receiving this notice.
(5) Staff Counsel Preliminary Report.
(i) Staff counsel’s presentation of evidence to the Board shall be in the form of a preliminary report setting forth the evidence collected relating to each allegation in the complaint.
(ii) Staff counsel ordinarily shall present its preliminary report to the Board within 90 days from the date that the complaint was referred to the General Counsel. This time period may be extended by the Board for good cause shown.
(iii) The preliminary report shall contain any cure action taken by the respondent and shall summarize the substance of any negotiations that took place between respondent and staff counsel.
(iv) The preliminary report may contain a recommendation that the complaint be settled prior to hearing.
(v) Any recommended settlement is not binding on the Board.
(6) Preliminary Consideration by the Board.
(i) The Board shall meet to discuss staff counsel’s preliminary report within 30 days of receiving it.
(ii) Pursuant to WSSC 1.70.080(d) through (f), the Board may dismiss the complaint if it:
1. Determines that respondent has taken action to cure each alleged violation and dismissal is not contrary to the purpose of the Code.
2. Determines that the evidence presented does not merit further proceedings.
3. Accepts a settlement proposed by staff counsel and incorporates the settlement into an order signed by the Chair.
(iii) All orders of dismissal shall be signed by the Chair and shall be mailed to all parties within five business days of the date of the order.
(c) Hearing Notice.
(1) When a complaint is not dismissed after completion of the preliminary investigation, the Board shall contact the staff counsel and the respondent’s preliminary counsel (or if pro se, the respondent) and schedule a hearing. As soon as practicable after the hearing has been scheduled, the Board shall issue a hearing notice.
(2) The hearing notice shall include:
(i) Statement of the time and place of the hearing.
(ii) Statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing will be held.
(iii) Reference to the relevant statutes, regulations, and rules of procedure involved.
(iv) Statement of the respondent’s right to be represented by counsel at the hearing.
(v) Statement of the basis for the complaint including a statement of each section of the Code which the complainant is alleged to have violated.
(1) As stated in WSSC 1.70.080(g), the hearing before the Board shall be conducted in accordance with WSSC Chapter 2.35, which sets forth WSSC’s procedures for contested case hearings.
(2) The Chair when present and, in the absence of the Chair, the Chair Pro Tem, elected by a majority of the members present, shall serve as the Hearing Officer.
(3) A quorum of three Board members is necessary to convene the hearing.
(4) Any conflict between WSSC Chapter 2.35 and the Code shall be resolved in favor of the latter.
(5) Any conflict between WSSC Chapter 2.35 and these rules of procedure shall be resolved in favor of the latter.
(e) Deliberations and Final Disposition.
(1) The Board shall meet in closed session no later than 30 days after the hearing, or at the next scheduled Board meeting, whichever is earlier, to determine whether the Code violations alleged in the complaint have been proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
(2) As stated in WSSC 1.70.090, the final Board decision shall be issued within 60 days of the hearing. The decision shall be written and shall set forth findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to each alleged violation.
(1) At any time after a matter is initiated and before a final determination by the Board, the staff counsel and respondent may develop a proposed settlement of the matter.
(2) A proposed settlement may:
(i) Be based on admissions or stipulations of fact or law;
(ii) Recite actions taken or agreed to be taken by the parties;
(iii) Include any sanction, penalty, or action agreed to be imposed or taken if the Board accepts the proposed settlement; and
(iv) Include any other provisions allowable by law that would define the framework for resolution of the complaint.
(3) A proposed settlement shall be in writing, agreed to by the staff counsel and the respondent, and may be by:
(ii) Consent order;
(iii) Waiver of hearing;
(iv) Settlement agreement; or
(v) Other appropriate format.
(4) A proposed settlement agreed to by the staff counsel and the respondent shall be presented to the Board for consideration by joint motion of the parties and may be the basis for a joint request for postponement of a scheduled hearing on the complaint.
(5) Board Action.
(i) The Board is not bound by a proposed settlement or other resolution reached by the staff counsel and the respondent, and may accept or reject the proposed resolution as the purposes of the Code may require.
(ii) If the Board accepts the settlement, it shall issue an order accepting the settlement and dismissing the complaint. This order shall be issued no later than 30 days from the date that the Board accepts the settlement.
(6) A proposed settlement which is not accepted by the Board may not be made a part of the case record or otherwise admitted into evidence in the hearing. (Res. 2006-0001)