City law requires the Ethics Commission to conduct confidential investigations of and enforce against violations of state and City laws regarding governmental ethics, lobbying, and campaign financing. When a person has violated a law, or aided and abetted another person in committing a violation, the Ethics Commission members may order compliance and assess an administrative monetary penalty.
An investigation can begin in a variety of ways, such as a complaint made through the whistleblower program, an audit, a news article, or a referral from another government agency. Investigations are strictly confidential. However, the Ethics Commission staff may make referrals to or work with other departments or law enforcement agencies on a particular case.
When conduct that may violate a law within the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction might also violate a criminal law, the Ethics Commission may jointly investigate the case with a criminal law enforcement agency or may defer to that agency’s investigation. Penalties for violations may be imposed by both agencies.
Based on information gathered through an investigation, the Director of Enforcement determines whether to initiate an administrative enforcement action. When appropriate, the staff tries to resolve the matter without initiating an enforcement action. If a violation is about to occur or can be mitigated, efforts to educate the parties and obtain voluntary compliance are made. However, the staff is not always informed of activity in time to prevent a violation.
If an administrative enforcement action is initiated, the Director of Enforcement attempts to settle the case with the respondent. When another law enforcement agency is involved, a global settlement involving all parties may be pursued. If settlement is not reached, a probable cause report is filed, and the Executive Director must determine whether probable cause exists to believe that the respondent violated the law.
If the Executive Director determines that probable cause does exist, a public accusation must be issued. An accusation is the first time the Ethics Commission may make information about the case public. Once a public accusation is made, the case moves through an administrative hearing process. The Ethics Commission members select a hearing officer, typically an administrative law judge, to conduct the hearing and make recommendations about whether violations occurred.
When a violation has occurred, administrative penalties may be imposed by the Ethics Commission or, in some cases, a court. Authorized penalties include a cease and desist order; an order to file reports, statements, or other documents required by law; and an order to pay a monetary penalty to the City. The maximum monetary penalty is the greater of $5,000 per violation or three times the amount of money at issue.
The City Charter requires the Ethics Commission to maintain an ethics complaint hotline, which anyone may use to report suspected violations of the City’s governmental ethics, conflict of interests, campaign finance, and lobbying laws. Reports may be made anonymously, and City law prohibits retaliation for reporting possible violations.
All City departments and appointed offices are required by law to report to the Ethics Commission potential violations of the laws, as well as potential instances of fraud, waste, or abuse, within ten days after discovery.
For more information, see the Ethics Hotline Brochure.
REPORT A VIOLATION
Report a Violation of Campaign, Contract, Ethics, or Lobbying Laws
When submitting an ethics complaint, please provide as much detail as possible, such as names, dates, locations, and other supporting information or documents. Providing details is critical in order for us to conduct an investigation, especially if you choose to remain anonymous. Because we may need additional information from you, it is always helpful if you provide your contact information.
By law, our investigations are confidential. We cannot confirm or deny the existence of any complaint or investigation, and we cannot provide status updates on complaints. However, we may refer information in a complaint to another law enforcement agency. Please bear in mind that fact patterns can be complex, that respondents are provided substantial due process rights, and that it may take some time to resolve an investigation.
Thank you for taking the time to submit a complaint. City law protects you from retaliation for reporting potential violations.
200 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
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Report Other Types of Violations
Conduct of Attorney
Conduct of CHP Officer
Conduct of Judge
Conduct of LAPD Officer
Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Retaliation
Waste, Fraud, Abuse
Workers Compensation Fraud
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I want to report a violation, but I want to remain anonymous. Can I do that?
What is the status of the complaint that I filed with the Ethics Commission?
Because of the strict confidentiality that applies to the Ethics Commission’s investigations, status updates are not provided to whistleblowers or other members of the public. All final enforcement determinations, including settlements, are public information and may be searched through our Public Data Portal.
I reported a violation three years ago, and nothing ever happened. Why not?
Every complaint is reviewed by the Ethics Commission staff. However, there are a variety of reasons that action taken regarding your complaint may not be public information. For example, investigations are strictly confidential, and information about an enforcement case does not become public until an accusation is issued, which occurs well into the enforcement process. In addition, the Ethics Commission has four years to initiate an enforcement action (longer if the respondent concealed or deceived), so it may be that the violation you reported will become a public case in the future. It may also be that what appeared to be a violation was not actually a violation or could not be substantiated, which means that no enforcement action was necessary or possible. Finally, if a violation did occur, it may have been resolved through education and mitigation or through the Audit Policy, without the need for enforcement action.
What kinds of cases does the Ethics Commission enforce?
The Ethics Commission enforces against violations in all of its program areas. Every enforcement order that the Ethics Commission has imposed in the past 25 years can be accessed through our Public Data Portal.
I just discovered that someone may have violated one of your laws five years ago. Can I still file a complaint?
Yes. The statute of limitations for an administrative enforcement action is four years from the date of the alleged violation. However, the statute is tolled for violations involving concealment or deceit. You are welcome to report a violation at any time, and the staff will be able to determine how the statute of limitations applies.
PUBLIC DATA PORTAL