The Ethics Commission issues advisory opinions relating to the application of the standards of conduct in the Ethics Act including conflicts of interest, financial disclosure and lobbying. A person subject to the Act may write to request an opinion regarding a proposed future course of action. An opinion issued by the Commission provides the employee or official, and any other similarly situated public servant who relies on an opinion in good faith, immunity from the sanctions in the Act, as well as an absolute defense to criminal prosecution under the Act. Precedential Advisory Opinions rendered by the Commission from 2005 to the present are available on this web site.
Since 1989, the Commission has issued hundreds of written advisory opinions. These precedents allow the Commission's staff to handle most inquiries over the telephone. Persons seeking guidance on complying with the Act may also submit inquiries via fax, E-mail or regular mail. Questions will only be submitted to the Commission for a formal advisory opinion where there is no precedent covering the inquiry, or the requester expressly indicates in writing that he or she wishes the question to be addressed by the full Commisison.
The Ethics Commission is authorized to issue written advisory opinions to county board of education members, members-elect and candidates for election to the board whether they may hold certain other positions and serve on a county board in accordance with the provisions of W. Va. Code §18-5-1a.
The Open Governmental Meetings Committee is comprised of three of the members of the Ethics Commission and gives written advisory opinions to governing bodies and their members on the meaning and application of the Open Meetings Act.
The West Virginia Ethics Commission’s Committee on Standards of Conduct for State Administrative Law Judges is authorized to provide written advisory opinions regarding the Code of Conduct for Administrative Law Judges. The Committee is comprised of three of the members of the Ethics Commission and meets, when necessary, immediately following the monthly meeting of the full Ethics Commission.
Who may ask for an Advisory Opinion
Any person subject to the provisions of the Governmental Ethics Act or WV Code §61-10-15 may request an opinion concerning his or her own conduct. This includes an elected or appointed public official or a public employee of State, county or local government. An individual may inquire as to whether she or he is subject to the Ethics Act. The Commission will not respond to requests for written advice on the propriety of someone else’s conduct. The identity of the requester will not be disclosed in the Commission’s written opinion.
How to ask for an Opinion
Requests for a formal advisory opinion must be submitted to the Ethics Commission in writing at 210 Brooks St., Charleston, WV 25301. The letter should contain a complete statement of the facts, including your name, your official position, a brief description of the powers of your agency, commission or office and the nature of the issue. The members of the Commission will review your letter, but their deliberations and written response will not disclose your name or the identity of your specific public entity.
The Commission will consider your request as promptly as possible, usually at its next monthly meeting. You will receive a copy of the written advisory opinion by mail.
Where to find prior Advisory Opinions
The West Virginia Ethics Commission Advisory Opinions listed below are available for viewing in .pdf format.
The advisory opinions listed here are limited to questions arising under the Ethics Act, W. Va. Code §§ 6B-1-1, et seq., and do not purport to interpret other laws or rules. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 6B-2-3, these opinions have precedential effect and may be relied upon in good faith by public servants and other persons unless and until amended or revoked.
To view existing Ethics Advisory opinions click here: Ethics Advisory Opinions
To view Open Meetings Advisory opinions click here: O M Advisory Opinions
To view Administrative Law Judge Opinions click here: ALJ Opinions
To view Contract Exemption Advisory Opinions click here: Contract Exemptions
To view School Board Advisory Opinions click here: School Board Opinions