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New Legislation Grants Authority to FPPC as to Government Code Section 1090

Effective January 1, 2014, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) will be able to provide advice to public officials and employees about Government Code Sections 1090 et seq. (“Section 1090”), the prohibition on self-dealing in making a contract.  In addition, the FPPC will for the first time be able to seek civil and administrative fines for violations of Section 1090.

Section 1090 prohibits a public official or employee from participating in the process by which a contract is developed, negotiated, or executed, if the public official or employee has a financial interest in that contract, as defined in Section 1090.  Prior to passage of the new legislation, Section 1090 was exclusively a criminal prohibition that could be prosecuted as a felony by a local district attorney or the Attorney General. 

The FPPC, created by the Political Reform Act to enforce that law’s extensive ethics rules, has never had authority to enforce or provide advice about Section 1090.  Now, public officials and employees may seek advice or opinions from the FPPC about potential future violations of Section 1090, whether by phone or in writing.  The advice or opinions can only relate to future, not prior, conduct. The FPPC must first give the Attorney General and the local district attorney the opportunity to provide feedback before the FPPC can provide formal, written advice or opinions on potential violations.

In addition to providing advice, the FPPC may enforce Section 1090 through administrative and civil fines.  To pursue an investigation or seek fines under Section 1090, the FPPC must first receive written authorization from the district attorney in the county where an alleged violation took place.

Overall, the new law will allow the FPPC to be a more comprehensive, “one-stop shop” for public  officials and employees with questions about California’s ethics rules.