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FYI 6: Advisory Opinions

When a government employee, member of the General Assembly or a public official under the jurisdiction of the IEC wants to know if a particular activity is permissible under Article XXIX of the Colorado Constitution or any other standard of conduct under the jurisdiction of the IEC, the person may file a request for Advisory Opinion from the Commission.

Advisory Opinions address a very specific set of facts or circumstances. For example, an employee of a municipal government office might want to find out in advance if accepting a cash award and invitation to an award ceremony as result of work done for the city is acceptable. In the Advisory Opinion the IEC will review the facts of the request, apply prior decisions (if any) and provide the employee with guidance as to whether or not accepting the award and invitation violates applicable laws. Facts such as the size of the award, the relationship between the employee and the awarding organization, and how the winner was selected may be facts that affect the Commission’s opinion.

It is important that individuals understand that Advisory Opinions are designed to provide guidance to the requestor only under the facts as presented in the original request. An Advisory Opinion does not apply to other situations – no matter how similar they may appear to be on the surface. For this reason, Advisory Opinions are not necessarily precedent setting; should the requestor's actions be questioned at a later time, however, the Commission's opinion will provide an affirmative defense if the facts as presented to the Commission are accurate and complete.

The Commission typically does not name the requestor of an advisory opinion in the decision, unless confidentiality is waived. An opinion may simply say, “an employee of the Department of_______.” However, if the Commission receives an open records act request, the original request will be supplied, without redactions of any identifying information.

To request an Advisory Opinion, send a letter or email to the Executive Director outlining the facts and issues.