FAQ: Advisory Opinions

 

Before filing a request for an Advisory Opinion, please review Rule 5 of the IEC’s Rules of Procedure.

What is an Advisory Opinion?

An Advisory Opinion is an opinion issued by the IEC addressing ethics issues in response to a written request by a public officer, member of the General Assembly, local government official, or government employee.  It is prospective in nature, meaning that the requestor seeks the IEC’s guidance about future potential conduct and not conduct that already has occurred.  Under Article XXIX, any covered individual (public officer, member of the General Assembly, local government official, or government employee) may submit a request for an advisory opinion to determine whether a future action by that person would constitute a violation of Article XXIX or any other standards of conduct or reporting requirements as provided by law.

What affect does an Advisory Opinion have?

If all material facts are disclosed to the IEC, an Advisory Opinion from the IEC may be relied on as an affirmative defense to a complaint about the subject matter of the Advisory Opinion.

How do I request an Advisory Opinion?

A request for an Advisory Opinion from the IEC must be submitted in writing, signed by the person making the request, be fact-specific, narrowly framed to the specific conduct in question, and filed with the IEC.  A request for an Advisory Opinion may be hand delivered to the IEC, mailed to the IEC office via first class mail, delivered by facsimile, or emailed to iecinfo@state.co.us.

Requests for Advisory Opinions may not be filed with individual Commissioners.

What information does the IEC generally need to issue an Advisory Opinion?

  • Your name and job title.

  • A statement explaining the background of your request.

  • What benefit is being offered and/or potentially accepted?  (Please note that a benefit may include, for example, any of the following: money; employment or an offer of employment; a gift; the payment of travel, meal, conference registration, or entertainment expenses; a speaking honorarium; an award or prize; a loan; forgiveness of a debt; favors or services; official or unofficial action, such as the casting of a vote or the exercise of influence.  (Because these are only examples, the list is not exhaustive.)

  • By whom and to whom is the benefit being offered?

  • What is the value of the benefit?  If the value of the benefit is not monetary, or is otherwise intangible, describe the qualitative value of the benefit.

  • Indicate whether the individual being offered the benefit is:  (1) an employee or independent contractor of the state executive branch, the state legislative branch, a state agency, a public institution of higher education, or any local government; (2) an elected or appointed official of a local government; (3) an elected officer or statewide elected officeholder, the head of an executive branch department, or an elected or appointed member of a state board or commission; (4) a member of the general assembly; or (5) a professional lobbyist?

  • If none of the above, please explain.

  • Is the benefit being provided to a specific individual or, rather, to the government with which the individual is associated?

  • What is the relationship between the donor and the recipient?

  • What is the connection between the benefit and the official functions of the recipient?

  • Why is the donor offering the benefit?  Could the benefit be perceived as an attempt to influence government action or inaction?

  • What, if anything, will the donor receive or expect to receive in return for offering or giving the benefit?

  • How is the benefit being funded?  Is any of the funding from non-profit sources?  If so, what percentage?

  • Whether the recipient has, or could be perceived as having, a conflict between official duties and receipt of the benefit?

  • Include all relevant documentation.  Relevant documentation could include, for example: conference agendas; speaking engagement schedules; loan documents; contracts; meeting minutes; emails or letters; travel, food, lodging, or entertainment brochures.  This list is not exhaustive.

  • Include any specific questions for which guidance from the Commission is sought.

  • Sign the request.

When must I file a request for an Advisory Opinion?

All requests for an Advisory Opinion must be filed before the event or conduct in question occurs.  In addition, all requests for an Advisory Opinion should be filed with the IEC at least 10 days prior to the next scheduled meeting of the IEC.  The IEC may request additional information and documents from a person submitting a request for the Advisory Opinion.  A request for an Advisory Opinion is complete when the IEC has determined that no additional information is necessary to issue it.  The IEC will respond to the request for an Advisory Opinion as soon as practicable after receipt of a completed request for the Advisory Opinion.

May I attend the meeting when the IEC considers my request?

Yes.  The IEC prefers requestors attend the meeting to answer questions and provide additional information as needed.

After the decision is made at the meeting what happens?

The IEC will publish Advisory Opinions on the IEC website as soon as practicable after the Commissioners approve and issue the opinion.  If any member of the IEC disagrees with an Advisory Opinion, that Commissioner may, at that Commissioner’s discretion, include a dissenting or concurring opinion.

Are Advisory Opinions appealable?

No.  Advisory Opinions are not Final Agency Actions and are not appealable.