AN ACT TO MAKE VARIOUS REVISIONS TO THE STATE GOVERNMENT ETHICS ACT AND THE LOBBYING LAWS.
Amends GS 138A-12, which governs ethics inquiries, investigations, and hearings by the State Ethics Commission (Commission).
Provides that the requirement in paragraph (a1) that the Commission provide immediate notice of an allegation to the subject does not apply to justices or judges. Amends paragraph (b) to clarify that those allegations must be referred to the Judicial Standards Commission without notification to the subject of the allegation.
Provides that in order for a complaint to be instituted pursuant to paragraph (b), the complaint must be timely and must be made against a person covered by the State Ethics Act.
Deletes the requirement in paragraph (b) that the Commission conduct an inquiry related to an alleged violation of the criminal law in the performance of a covered person's official duties. Requires that such allegations be referred to the Attorney General for investigation and referral to the district attorney, subject to limited exceptions.
Provides that if the Commission initiates an inquiry, it is not required to comply with subdivision (e)(1) of the same section, but no such subdivision exists.
Amends paragraph (c)(5) to clarify that the Commission must send a copy of the complaint to the subject within 10 business days of accepting a complaint. Provides that a complaint is accepted if it is timely, signed, sworn (if required), and against a person covered by the State Ethics Act.
Amends paragraph (f) to modify the process and the language used for inquiries and investigations. Requires the Commission to conclude an inquiry within 30 days of acceptance (was, conclude preliminary inquiry within 20 days). At the conclusion of the inquiry, the Commission may proceed with a probable cause investigation.
Deletes paragraph (j) and adds new paragraph (h1), both of which relate to settlements. New paragraph (h1) incorporates language from (j) that authorizes settlements and requires that they be approved by the Commission. Adds new language specifying that after settlement, the matter is closed and may only be reopened after a breach of the settlement agreement. Also requires that the Commission provide notice of the settlement to various individuals.
Amends paragraph (l), which includes a requirement that notices of dismissals of complaints be sent to certain individuals and entities. Adds a requirement that such notices related to public servants be sent the employing entity and appointing authority.
Amends paragraph (n) related to confidentiality of information. Extends confidentiality protections to specifically include settlement agreements, referrals, recommendations, and reports. Provides that the information protected may be released only by court order. Deletes language that made information public record in limited circumstances. Provides that if another person or entity releases confidential information in violation of this section, the Commission is authorized to release information as well. Adds new language authorizing the Commission to share information and records if it refers the matter to another government entity.
Makes conforming and technical changes to GS 138A-12(c), (d), (f), (i), (k), (n), (o), and (q); GS 138A-10 (powers and duties of the Commission); GS 138A-13(a2) (immunity for public servants and legislative employees following request for an advisory opinion); and GS 138A-13(b1) (immunity for legislators following request for an advisory opinion).
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