Frequently Asked Questions

 
PURPOSE OF THE ETHICS ACT
 
 
 
SECTION 1102
DEFINITIONS
 
 
 
JURISDICTION
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
ADVISORIES UNDER THE ETHICS ACT
 
         
 
 
 
 
SECTION 1103(a)
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SECTION 1103(d)
HONORARIUM
 
 
 
SECTION 1103(g)
1-YEAR POST-EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS
 
 
 
 
 
SECTION 1103(j)
VOTING CONFLICT EXCEPTIONS
 
 
 
SECTIONS 1104, 1105
STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL INTERESTS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
REMEDIAL MEASURES
 
 
__________________________________________
 
 
PURPOSE OF THE ETHICS ACT
 
 
A:     The Pennsylvania Public Official and Employee Ethics Act was enacted in order to strengthen the faith and confidence of the people of the Commonwealth in their government. In promulgating the Ethics Act, the Legislature declared that public office is a public trust, and that any effort to realize personal financial gain through public office other than compensation provided by law is a violation of that trust. The Legislature further declared that the people have a right to be assured that the financial interests of holders of, or nominees or candidates for, public office do not conflict with the public trust. The Legislature stated that because public confidence in government can best be sustained by assuring the people of the impartiality and honesty of public officials, the Ethics Act is to be liberally construed to promote complete financial disclosure as specified by the Act.
 
 
SECTION 1102
DEFINITIONS
 
 
A:     Yes. When one or more political subdivisions (such as, for example, counties, cities, boroughs, townships, school districts, or vocational schools) organize an entity, the newly organized entity is also a political subdivision as that term is defined in the Ethics Act and Commission Regulations. See, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102; 51 Pa. Code § 11.1. An appointed official of a political subdivision, such as a board member, is a public official subject to the Ethics Act, Commission Regulations, and SFI filing requirements, unless the statutory exclusion for members of purely advisory boards is applicable. See, Eiben, Opinion 04-002; 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102 (definition of “public official”). As for employees, depending upon the authority of their respective positions, employees of a political subdivision might be considered “public employees” subject to the Ethics Act, Commission Regulations, and SFI filing requirements. Id.; see, Snyder, Opinion 05-007 (non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation organized by school district to promote, enhance, and supplement school district programs); Eiben, supra (charter school); Gent, Opinion 95-006-R (regional planning commission serving as an area loan organization).
 
 
JURISDICTION
 
 
A:     No. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has exclusive jurisdiction over judicial officers and judicial employees. L.J.S. v. State Ethics Commission, 744 A.2d 798 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2000); Billotte, Opinion 00-005.
 
 
A:     No. The State Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over judges or members of the judicial system. Contact the Judicial Conduct Board at 717-234-7911. If the matter involves a magisterial district judge, contact the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in the county.
 
 
A:     No. The State Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over the conduct of attorneys engaged in the practice of law. Contact the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court at 215-560-6296 (Philadelphia); 610-650-8210 (Trooper); 717-731-7083 (Lemoyne); or 412-565-3173 (Pittsburgh).
 
 
A:     No. Your inquiry may be directed to the Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association or to the PBA Ethics Hotline at 800-932-0311, Ext. 2214.
 
 
A:     No. Contact the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs at 800-822-2113.
 
 
A:     No. The State Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over termination/discharge or other workplace matters involving discrimination, prejudice and bias. Such matters are handled by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which also handles housing questions involving discrimination, prejudice, and bias. Contact the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission at 717-787-4410 or a private attorney.
 
 
A:     Questions and concerns about violations of the Sunshine Act, 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 701-716, should be directed to the county district attorney.
 
 
A:     The State Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction over matters involving the conduct of government meetings. A private attorney may provide legal assistance in such matters.
 
 
A:     No.
 
 
A:      No. A private attorney may provide legal guidance since the State Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over property disputes. The State Ethics Commission’s scope of investigatory review is generally limited to public officials/public employees using public office for a personal financial gain for themselves, immediate family members, or businesses with which they or immediate family members are associated. 
 
 
A:      No. The State Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over such matters. A private attorney may be able to provide legal guidance.
 
 
A:     Yes. When one or more political subdivisions (such as, for example, counties, cities, boroughs, townships, school districts, or vocational schools) organize an entity, the newly organized entity is also a political subdivision as that term is defined in the Ethics Act and Commission Regulations. See, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102; 51 Pa. Code § 11.1. An appointed official of a political subdivision, such as a board member, is a public official subject to the Ethics Act, Commission Regulations, and SFI filing requirements, unless the statutory exclusion for members of purely advisory boards is applicable. See, Eiben, Opinion 04-002; 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102 (definition of “public official”). As for employees, depending upon the authority of their respective positions, employees of a political subdivision might be considered “public employees” subject to the Ethics Act, Commission Regulations, and SFI filing requirements. Id.
 
In Snyder, Opinion 05-007, the Commission held that a non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation organized by a school district to support the mission of the school district by promoting, enhancing, and supplementing school district programs through, inter alia, contributing to tax exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, was a “political subdivision” as that term is defined by the Ethics Act. The Commission determined that because the foundation exercised a basic power of government and performed essential government functions, it was not an advisory board within the exclusionary language set forth in the Ethics Act’s definition of “public official.” The Commission concluded that a member of the foundation’s board of directors, as an appointed official in a political subdivision, would be a “public official” subject to the Ethics Act and Commission Regulations, and particularly, the requirements for filing SFIs. See also, Eiben, supra (charter school); Gent, Opinion 95-006-R (regional planning commission serving as an area loan organization).
 
 
A:     The Ethics Act includes both requirements and restrictions/prohibitions. The Ethics Act imposes affirmative duties and responsibilities upon public officials, public employees, candidates, and nominees with regard to the filing of financial disclosure statements. Additionally, the Ethics Act restricts/prohibits certain types of conduct that violate the public trust.
 
 
ADVISORIES UNDER THE ETHICS ACT
 
 
A:     An advisory answers hypothetical questions under the Ethics Act. An advisory is issued in response to a written request received by the State Ethics Commission. Pursuant to Sections 1107(10) and 1107(11) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 1107(10), (11), an advisory is issued to the requester based upon the facts that the requester has submitted. In issuing the advisory based upon the submitted facts, the Commission does not engage in an independent investigation of the facts, nor does it speculate as to facts that have not been submitted. It is the burden of the requester to truthfully disclose all of the material facts relevant to the inquiry.  65 Pa.C.S. §§ 1107(10), (11). An advisory only affords a defense to the extent the requester has truthfully disclosed all of the material facts.
 
        Advisories take two forms: Advices of Counsel, which are issued by the Chief Counsel for the Commission, and Opinions of the State Ethics Commission, which are issued by the Commission itself.
 
 
A:     No.  It is clear from the statutory provisions that authorize the issuance of advisories that such may only be issued as to conduct that has not yet occurred. See, 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 1107(10), (11); Hofrichter, Opinion 98-003. Past conduct is reviewed by the Commission through investigative proceedings, where it is alleged that the person whose conduct is in question has already taken action in violation of the Ethics Act. Investigative proceedings are conducted pursuant to Section 1108 of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1108.
 
 
A:     An advisory is issued in response to a request and answers hypothetical questions under the Ethics Act regarding possible future conduct. An advisory affords certain defenses to the subject of the advisory as long as all of the material facts have been disclosed truthfully and the subject of the advisory has acted in reliance on the advisory.
 
        In contrast, investigative proceedings review past conduct. Investigative proceedings are initiated based upon allegations that a person has already taken action in violation of the Ethics Act. Investigative proceedings are conducted pursuant to Section 1108 of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1108.  Investigative proceedings are adversarial, with the Commission determining the facts from evidence such as documents and witness testimony.
 
 
A:     Advices of Counsel may be appealed to the full Commission.
 
        As for Opinions of the Commission, Section 1108(i) of the Ethics Act states that a Commission Opinion or Order that becomes final may be appealed “in accordance with law and general rules.” 65 Pa.C.S. § 1108(i). There is case law holding that the State Ethics Commission’s advisory Opinions are not subject to appeal because they do not involve an actual controversy between the parties. See, Suehr v. State Ethics Commission, 651 A.2d 648 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994), alloc. den., 541 Pa. 647, 663 A.2d 697 (1995). However, more recent case law establishes that at least some Opinions may be appealed. See, Shaulis v. State Ethics Commission, 574 Pa. 680, 833 A.2d 123 (2003). 
 
 
SECTION 1103(a)
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
 
 
A:     Under the Ethics Act, a conflict of interest is the use of the authority of public office/employment or confidential information received by holding such a public position for the private pecuniary benefit of the public official/public employee himself, any member of his immediate family, or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated. 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 1102, 1103(a). The term “business with which he is associated” is defined as “Any business in which the person or a member of the person’s immediate family is a director, officer, owner, employee or has a financial interest.” 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102.
 
 
A:     No. A violation of Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act is established by a use of the authority of the public position or confidential information received by being in the public position for the “private pecuniary benefit” of the public official/public employee himself, a member of his immediate family, or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated. 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102 (definition of “conflict” or “conflict of interest”). Where official action would result in a financial detriment and not a “private pecuniary benefit” falling within the parameters of the Section 1103(a) prohibition, Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act would not prohibit such official action by the public official/public employee. See, e.g., Gornish, Advice 05-604.
 
 
A:     No. See, Rubenstein, Opinion 01-007.
 
 
A:     Unless there is a pre-existing mechanism in place specifying how and by whom the public official’s authority is to be exercised in the event of a conflict, the public official’s delegation of such authority to a subordinate is itself a use of authority of office establishing the first element of a conflict of interest. See, Confidential Opinion, 02-004.
 
 
A:     Yes.  See, Riley, Opinion 00-008.
 
 
A:     Yes. “Reciprocity of power” may form the basis for a conflict of interest under Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act, as illustrated by the following Opinions of the State Ethics Commission.
 
        In Confidential Opinion, 05-004, the Commission held that a school director would have a conflict of interest pursuant to Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act in matters pertaining to the appointment/employment of a middle school principal for the school district when one of the candidates for the position exercised some administrative authority and influence over the school director as to the latter’s employment as a teacher in a different school district.
 
        In Elisco, Opinion 00-003, the Commission held that where a city council member was an assistant principal and another city council member’s spouse was a principal in a certain school district, both council members would have a conflict of interest with regard to voting to invest pension funds through an investment company and its sales representative who was a school director in that school district.
 
        In Woodring, Opinion 90-001, where the chairman of a redevelopment authority had applied for a federal rehabilitation grant, and the executive director of the redevelopment authority also served as the city community development coordinator with authority to administer the grant program for the city, review applications and determine eligibility, the Commission held, inter alia, that the chairman of the redevelopment authority would have a conflict of interest and would be required to abstain as to matters involving such individual if the chairman’s grant application would be approved and he would receive benefits under the grant program.
 
        In Bassi, Opinion 86-007-R, the Commission held that a county commissioner could not enter into a lease with a municipal authority where one of the members of the authority was a county employee directly responsible to the commissioners of the county, unless the execution of the lease was accomplished after an open and public process with the authority member abstaining from participating in the review and award of the lease and the county commissioner abstaining from participating in any matter relating to the authority member in his position as a county employee.
 
        In each instance of a conflict of interest, the public official/public employee with the conflict is required to abstain fully from participation and in each instance of a voting conflict, to abstain fully and to satisfy the disclosure requirements of Section 1103(j) of the Ethics Act.
 
 
A:     Yes.
 
        The General Assembly has the constitutional power to declare by law which offices are incompatible. See, Pa. Const. Art. 6, § 2. However, even when there does not appear to be any statutorily declared incompatibility that would preclude simultaneous service in the positions in question, when simultaneous service places the public official/public employee in a continual state of conflict, such as when in one position he is accounting to himself in the other position on a continual basis, there is an inherent conflict making it impossible, as a practical matter, for the public official/public employee to function in the conflicting positions without running afoul of Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act.  See, Johnson, Opinion 86-004; Nelson, Opinion 85-009; McCain, Opinion 02-009.
 
The issue presented in McCain, supra, was whether the Ethics Act would impose any prohibitions or restrictions upon a secretary employed by a school district, whose job duties included auditing tax collector reports, with regard to simultaneously serving as one of the township tax collectors collecting taxes for the school district.
 
The Commission reasoned that permitting the requestor to audit her own tax collector reports would undermine a check-and-balance system designed to ensure the propriety of the tax collection process. 
 
The Commission held that the requestor could not, consistent with Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act, simultaneously serve as a township tax collector and as the secretary at the school district responsible for auditing her own tax collector reports. However, the Commission stated that if the individual would hold a different position with the school district that would not involve her work as a tax collector, then absent some other basis for a conflict of interest, such simultaneous service would not be prohibited by the Ethics Act. Additionally, the Commission noted that while the individual could not delegate her authority as to auditing her tax collector reports to a subordinate, if someone other than a subordinate would assume her school district duties as to her tax collector reports, she would be able to keep her current job with the school district and simultaneously serve as a township tax collector. In the latter scenario, the individual’s abstention as to her own tax collector reports would have to be complete, and she would have to make the requisite disclosures pursuant to Section 1103(j) of the Ethics Act. 
 
 
SECTION 1103(d)
HONORARIA
 
 
A:     No. Section 1103(d) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1103(d), is an absolute prohibition against accepting honoraria. See, Crompton, Opinion 09-002. The statutory definition of "honorarium" set forth in Section 1102 of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102, generally includes payments which are made in recognition of speaking engagements/presentations, appearances, and published works, but excludes such payments if: (1) they are legitimately intended as consideration for the value of such services; and (2) they are undertaken in the public official's/public employee's private professional or occupational capacity and are not related to the public position. See, Confidential Opinion, 01-001. The question of whether a given payment is an honorarium prohibited by Section 1103(d) is determined by an application of the statutory definition set forth in the Ethics Act, not by the mere label that may have been attached to the payment. Id.   
 
 
SECTION 1103(g)
1-YEAR POST-EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS
 
 
A:     Substantively, the 1-year revolving door provision of the Ethics Act, Section 1103(g), provides that no former public official/public employee may represent a person, with promised or actual compensation, before the governmental body with which he has been associated for one year after he leaves that body. 65 Pa.C.S. § 1103(g). The term “person” is broadly defined to include individuals, various forms of entities, and governmental bodies. 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102. The term “represent” is also broadly defined to prohibit acting on behalf of any person in any activity. Id.
 
        However, Section 1103(g) only restricts the former public official/public employee with regard to representation before his former governmental body. The former public official/public employee is not restricted as to representation before other agencies or entities.
 
 
A:     Section 1103(g) of the Ethics Act would not prohibit this. In Moore, Opinion 05-008, the State Ethics Commission reviewed this question as to an attorney seeking to represent her present employer, the House Democratic Caucus (“Caucus”), before her former employer, the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR), during the first year after leaving employment with UCBR. Based upon Shaulis, supra, the Commission determined that Section 1103(g) of the Ethics Act could not be applied to restrict the attorney from engaging in legal representation of the Caucus before UCBR, but that to the extent the attorney would engage in other, non-legal representation before UCBR, Section 1103(g) would apply. The Opinion was limited to addressing the Ethics Act and did not address the Rules of Professional Conduct and particularly Rule 1.11 (relating to special conflicts of interests for former and current government officers and employees) and Rule 1.13 (relating to organization as client). 
 
 
A:     It may be, depending upon the services the retiree performs for the Commonwealth under the annuitant program.       
 
The Commission has held that when an individual who has retired from Commonwealth employment returns to Commonwealth service as an annuitant to perform services falling within the Ethics Act’s definition of “public employee” (see, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102), the individual becomes a “public employee” subject to the Ethics Act. See, Graves, Opinion 00-009; McGlathery, Opinion 00-004.   Consequently, when the individual would cease providing such annuitant services, the individual would become a “former public employee” subject to Section 1103(g) of the Ethics Act. The restrictions of Section 1103(g) would apply until the expiration of a full one-year period following the individual’s termination of service with the Commonwealth under the 95-day annuitant program or until the individual would resume providing services to the Commonwealth under the 95-day annuitant program in a position falling within the Ethics Act’s definition of “public employee,” whichever would come first.   
 
 
SECTION 1103(j)
VOTING CONFLICT EXCEPTIONS
 
 
A:      There are only two “voting conflict exceptions” recognized by the Ethics Act. They are set forth in Section 1103(j) of the Ethics Act, which provides as follows: 
 
§ 1103. Restricted activities
 
     (j) Voting conflict.--Where voting conflicts are not otherwise addressed by the Constitution of Pennsylvania or by any law, rule, regulation, order or ordinance, the following procedure shall be employed. Any public official or public employee who in the discharge of his official duties would be required to vote on a matter that would result in a conflict of interest shall abstain from voting and, prior to the vote being taken, publicly announce and disclose the nature of his interest as a public record in a written memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting at which the vote is taken, provided that whenever a governing body would be unable to take any action on a matter before it because the number of members of the body required to abstain from voting under the provisions of this section makes the majority or other legally required vote of approval unattainable, then such members shall be permitted to vote if disclosures are made as otherwise provided herein. In the case of a three-member governing body of a political subdivision, where one member has abstained from voting as a result of a conflict of interest and the remaining two members of the governing body have cast opposing votes, the member who has abstained shall be permitted to vote to break the tie vote if disclosure is made as otherwise provided herein.
 
65 Pa.C.S. § 1103(j). 
 
        The exception for breaking a tie vote despite a conflict is available exclusively to members of three-member governing bodies who first abstain and disclose their conflicts as required by Section 1103(j) of the Ethics Act. The only exception that enables a member of another board to vote despite a conflict requires that the following conditions be met: (1) the board must be unable to take any action on the matter before it because the number of members required to abstain from voting under the provisions of the Ethics Act makes the majority or other legally required vote of approval unattainable; and (2) prior to voting, such members with conflicts under the Ethics Act must disclose their conflicts as required by Section 1103(j).  See, Pavlovic, Opinion 02-005.
 
 
SECTIONS 1104, 1105
STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL INTERESTS
 
 
A:     Yes. When one or more political subdivisions (such as, for example, counties, cities, boroughs, townships, school districts, or vocational schools) organize an entity, the newly organized entity is also a political subdivision as that term is defined in the Ethics Act and Commission Regulations. See, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102; 51 Pa. Code § 11.1. An appointed official of a political subdivision, such as a board member, is a public official subject to the Ethics Act, Commission Regulations, and SFI filing requirements, unless the statutory exclusion for members of purely advisory boards is applicable. See, Eiben, Opinion 04-002; 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102 (definition of “public official”). As for employees, depending upon the authority of their respective positions, employees of a political subdivision might be considered “public employees” subject to the Ethics Act, Commission Regulations, and SFI filing requirements. Id.; see, Snyder, Opinion 05-007 (non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation organized by school district to promote, enhance, and supplement school district programs); Eiben, supra (charter school); Gent, Opinion 95-006-R (regional planning commission serving as an area loan organization).
 
 
A:     Yes.  Section 1104(a) of the Ethics Act provides as follows:
 
§ 1104. Statement of financial interests required to be filed
 
     (a) Public official or public employee.--Each public official of the Commonwealth shall file a statement of financial interests for the preceding calendar year with the commission no later than May 1 of each year that he holds such a position and of the year after he leaves such a position. Each public employee and public official of the Commonwealth shall file a statement of financial interests for the preceding calendar year with the department, agency, body or bureau in which he is employed or to which he is appointed or elected no later than May 1 of each year that he holds such a position and of the year after he leaves such a position. Any other public employee or public official shall file a statement of financial interests with the governing authority of the political subdivision by which he is employed or within which he is appointed or elected no later than May 1 of each year that he holds such a position and of the year after he leaves such a position. Persons who are full-time or part-time solicitors for political subdivisions are required to file under this section.
 
65 Pa.C.S. § 1104(a) (Emphasis added).
 
        Even before the C.P.C. case was decided, the State Ethics Commission recognized that the above requirement for all solicitors to file Statements of Financial Interests was specific and did not hinge upon the status of solicitors, that is, whether they would be within the definition of “public official” or “public employee.” See, Campbell, Order 1024 at 8.
 
        In Foster, Opinion 98-002, the State Ethics Commission held that although, per C.P.C., supra, the conflict of interest provisions of the Ethics Act do not apply to solicitors who are retained by, as opposed to being employees of, the governmental bodies they serve, all solicitors are required to file Statements of Financial Interests pursuant to Section 4(a), now Section 1104(a), of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1104(a).  Therefore, all solicitors must file Statements of Financial Interests providing full financial disclosure as required by Sections 1104 and 1105 of the Ethics Act.
 
 
A:     Yes. In Bodo, Opinion 96-007, the Commission held that an office rather than personal residence address may be listed on the Statement of Financial Interests form. The Commission based this decision on Section 1105(b)(1) of the Ethics Act and the Commission Regulations at 51 Pa. Code § 17.1. These Sections require that the filer list his “address” but do not require that a personal residence address be listed.
 
 
A:     No. Although persons in the aforesaid positions certainly would be subject to the filing requirement--as would assistant superintendents, school business managers, and principals--the filing requirement would not be limited to these positions. 
 
        The Ethics Act provides that public officials, public employees, candidates, nominees, and full-time or part-time solicitors for political subdivisions must file Statements of Financial Interests. 65 Pa.C.S. § 1104. Status as a “public official” or “public employee” is determined by applying definitions and criteria set forth in the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1101 et seq., and State Ethics Commission Regulations, 51 Pa. Code § 11.1 et seq.
 
        A public official is a person who is: (1) elected by the public; (2) elected or appointed by a governmental body; or (3) an appointed official in the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the Commonwealth or a political subdivision, such as a school district. Muscalus, Opinion 02-007; 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102. Members of purely advisory boards lacking authority to expend public funds other than reimbursement for personal expense or to otherwise exercise the power of the State or a political subdivision are excluded from the definition. 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102.
 
        In order to be a “public employee” subject to the Ethics Act, an individual must: (1) stand in an employer-employee relationship with the Commonwealth or a political subdivision, such as a school district (Ver Ellen, Opinion 03-005); and (2) have responsibility for taking or recommending official, nonministerial action with regard to contracting or procurement; administering or monitoring grants or subsidies; planning or zoning; inspecting, licensing, regulating, or auditing any person; or “any other activity where the official action has an economic impact of greater than a de minimis nature on the interests of any person.” 65 Pa.C.S. § 1102.
 
        Status as a "public employee" subject to the Ethics Act is determined by an objective test. The objective test applies the statutory and regulatory definitions and criteria to the powers and duties of the position as established by objective sources, such as the job description, job classification specifications, and organizational chart. Thus, the objective test considers what an individual has the authority to do in a given position, rather than the variable functions that the individual may actually perform in that position. See, Phillips v. State Ethics Commission, 470 A.2d 659 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1984); Shienvold, Opinion 04-001; Shearer, Opinion 03-011. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has specifically considered and approved the State Ethics Commission’s objective test and has directed that coverage under the Ethics Act be construed broadly and that exclusions under the Ethics Act be construed narrowly. See, Phillips, supra.
 
        Because status as a public employee is determined based upon duties and authority rather than job titles, and because positions and duties may vary greatly from one school district to another, it is not feasible to create one listing of all school district positions subject to the filing requirement. Rather, the duties and authority of each position must be considered to determine status as a public employee. 
 
        An employee with duties including recommending equipment purchases would typically fall within the definition of “public employee” and would be subject to the requirements for filing Statements of Financial Interests.  
 
 
A:      Yes. At its public meeting on April 4, 2003, the Commission adopted Resolution 03-001, which directs:
 
(1)  That enforcement of the requirements of the Ethics Act as to the filing of Statements of Financial Interests shall be deferred as to any person on active service with any branch of the United States military during wartime or post-war activities;
 
(2)    That the Chair in conjunction with the Executive Director of the Commission shall have full discretionary authority to defer such enforcement proceedings under the circumstances set forth in the Resolution based upon the review of such matters; and
 
(3)    That any deferral granted under the Resolution shall not extend beyond 90 days after the person required to file concludes active military service during wartime or post-war activities.
 
 
A:     No. Statements of Financial Interests filed pursuant to the Ethics Act are public documents. The Ethics Act provides that all Statements of Financial Interests filed pursuant to the Ethics Act must be made available for public inspection and copying. 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 1104(e), 1107(6). Additionally, the Ethics Act specifically requires that the State Ethics Commission accept and file any information voluntarily supplied in excess of the Ethics Act’s requirements. 65 Pa.C.S. § 1107(4).
 
        Erroneous forms may be amended through the filing of an additional form, but the original filing remains a publicly available document.
 
        Given that a Statement of Financial Interests, once filed, may not be withdrawn, care should be exercised by the filer as to its contents.
 
        The Ethics Act requires that Statements of Financial Interests be preserved by the recipient body/agency for a period of five years from the date of receipt. 65 Pa.C.S. § 1107(9).
 
 
A:     Yes. The Commission addressed this question in Darlington, Opinion 07-011, issued June 13, 2007.   Historically, incumbent judicial candidates had not been required to file the Statement of Financial Interests form pursuant to the Ethics Act. However, in light of the ruling in In re: Nomination Petitions of James H. Owen, 922 A.2d 973 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007), the Commission held that members of the judiciary who are candidates are required to file Statements of Financial Interests in conformance with Section 1104(b) of the Ethics Act, using the form promulgated by the Commission. The Commission made its ruling prospective, such that the application of the financial statement filing requirements to incumbent judges as candidates commences effective for forms due to be filed July 1, 2007, or thereafter.  
 
 
A:     No. In Quinn, Opinion 07-014, the Commission noted that pursuant to Sections 1104 and 1105 of the Ethics Act, reportable direct or indirect sources of income totaling in the aggregate $1,300 or more must be disclosed on the Statement of Financial Interests form prescribed by the Commission. The Commission held that Social Security survivor benefits paid to a school director as the representative payee for his children upon the death of his spouse would be considered “governmentally mandated payments or benefits” excluded from the definition of “income” as set forth in Section 1102 of the Ethics Act. The Commission based this decision on the case of In re: Nomination Petition of Benninghoff, 578 Pa. 402, 852 A.2d 1182 (2004), wherein the Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that benefits such as workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation benefits, public assistance and the like would be examples of governmentally mandated benefits.  
 
 
A:     No. In Rouzer, Opinion 08-001, the Commission noted that Section 1105(b)(6) of the Ethics Act requires the filer to disclose on the Statement of Financial Interests form the name and address of the source and the amount of any gift or gifts valued in the aggregate at $250 or more and the circumstances of each gift. The Commission further noted that the filer is not required to disclose gifts from a family member or friend (with the term “friend” excluding a registered lobbyist or employee of a registered lobbyist) when the circumstances make it clear that the motivation for the action was the personal/family relationship. The Commission concluded that an inheritance received from a family member would ordinarily be considered a gift that would not have to be disclosed on the Statement of Financial Interests form as per Section 1105(b)(6) of the Ethics Act. The Commission further concluded that an inheritance received from a family member would not be considered “income” for purposes of financial disclosure under Section 1105(b)(5) of the Ethics Act unless the inheritance would be expressly designated as a payment for, or in recognition of, services. 
 
        The Commission parenthetically noted that regardless of whether a given inheritance would itself be subject to disclosure on the Statement of Financial Interests form, related information might need to be disclosed, such as, for example, a financial interest in a business received through an inheritance, or investment income received from the investment of an inheritance. 
 
 
REMEDIAL MEASURES
 
 
A:     No. The Commission has held that “remedial measures,” such as to rescind a prior vote, do not “undo” or negate a violation if such has occurred (see, Dovidio, Order 1202; Peters, Order 1128; Hofrichter, Opinion 98-003-R), but may be considered as mitigating circumstances when the Commission considers the imposition of an appropriate penalty or referral for criminal prosecution (see, Dovidio, supra).