As authorized by King County Code, the Board of Ethics adopted Rules of Procedure for Appeal Hearings.
This document is intended to provide a "plain English" overview of the Rules of Procedure. This document is only a summary of most of the general provisions in the rules. This document is not a substitute for the rules. The Board of Ethics will conduct appeal hearings as provided in the rules. Participants in an appeal hearing before the board will be required to comply with the rules regardless of how this summary may describe various provisions in the rules.
The King County Ombudsman may issue a reasonable cause order to believe that a person violated the King County Code of Ethics. The person against whom the Ombudsman issues an order of reasonable cause (who is called the respondent in the Rules of Procedure and in this summary) has the right to request an appeal hearing before the King County Board of Ethics.
The Board of Ethics will conduct an independent review of the allegations, facts, and order issued by the Ombudsman to determine whether the Ombudsman's order is supported by substantial evidence and whether the Ombudsman properly interpreted or applied the Code of Ethics. The Board may affirm, deny, or modify the Ombudsman's order.
The respondent must submit a written request for an appeal hearing within twenty calendar days after receiving the Ombudsman's order. The request from the respondent must name the Ombudsman's order being appealed and specify the findings being contested.
Except as allowed by the Rules of Procedure, members of the Board of Ethics are prohibited from communicating with anyone about any issues related to the appeal hearing. No one, including the respondent and the Ombudsman, who knows about the request for the appeal hearing, is allowed to communicate with any member of the Board of Ethics, except the Presiding Officer, outside of the appeal hearing. A member of the Board may be disqualified from participating in the appeal hearing if necessary to overcome the effects of such a communication.
For bias, prejudice, interest, or other good cause, a member of the Board of Ethics or the Presiding Officer may not participate in the appeal hearing. A member of the Board shall recuse (i.e. remove) themselves if the member has an actual or apparent conflict of interest that cannot be reconciled.
The Presiding Officer will manage the proceedings and make determinations on behalf of the Board of Ethics. The Presiding Officer will ensure that each party has an opportunity to effectively participate in the appeal hearing process.
The Chair of the Board of Ethics will select a Presiding Officer. The Presiding Officer may be a member of the Board or a person other than a member of the Board . The other members of the Board may at any time designate a different person to serve as Presiding Officer.
The appeal hearing will be scheduled for a date within forty-five (45) days after the date the request for the appeal hearing was filed, unless a pre-hearing conference will be held. If a pre-hearing conference will be held, the appeal hearing will be scheduled for about thirty days following the pre-hearing conference.
A pre-hearing conference may be conducted to consider and make determinations on any procedural issues related to the appeal hearing. The Presiding Officer will issue a written order after the pre-hearing conference reciting the issues discussed at the conference and the rulings of the Presiding Officer.
The Presiding Officer will issue a notice of appeal hearing to each party and others at least seven days prior to the date of the hearing. The Presiding Officer shall keep a verbatim record of the appeal hearing. The Ombudsman has the burden of proving that the respondent violated the Code of Ethics.
The Presiding Officer will manage the appeal hearing and make rulings on evidence and procedural issues. In general, the Presiding Officer will allow evidence that a reasonably prudent person is accustomed to rely upon.
Each party will have the right to call and examine witnesses, present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, impeach witnesses, and represent herself or himself, or be represented by another person who is lawfully permitted to provide such representation. Persons called as witnesses must swear or affirm to testify truthfully before testifying. The Board may issue subpoenas to require a person to testify or produce documents.
The Board may review procedural decisions made by the Presiding Officer. After each party has the opportunity to make statements in support of or opposition to a decision by the Presiding Officer, the Board will determine what action to take.
The Presiding Officer will make reasonable accommodations if a party or a witness has a disability or is a non-English speaking or limited English-speaking person. Interpreters will be appointed if necessary.
Appeal hearings will be conducted as open meetings unless state law allows closure of all or a portion of the hearing. Documents filed for the appeal hearing will be made available to the public for inspection and copying unless state law provides otherwise.
The record of the appeal hearing will include all documents filed, the recording of the hearing, decisions of the Presiding Officer, and the findings, conclusions and final order of the Board of Ethics.
After the appeal hearing, the Board of Ethics will enter findings, conclusions and a final order. The Board may affirm, deny or modify the order of the Ombudsman, or portions of that order. The Board will send each party a copy of the findings, conclusions and final order and will file the original with the County records and elections division. The final order of the Board of Ethics shall be a public record available for public inspection and copying.