[1995/oagheade.htm]

OAG 95-16

April 10, 1995

Subject: Local Government Code of Ethics

Written by: Ross T. Carter

Requested by: Bruce Ferguson, Commissioner, Department of Local Government

Syllabus: KRS 65.003 does not require local governments to adopt a code of ethics containing standards of conduct for every appointed official and employee.

Statutes construed: KRS 65.003

Opinion of the Attorney General

The issue is whether KRS 65.003, which requires local governments to adopt a code of ethics, obligates local governments to extend the code of ethics to appointed officials and employees, or whether it is permissible to apply the code only to elected officials.

KRS 65.003(1) states that a code of ethics “shall apply to all elected officials of the city or county, and to appointed officials and employees of the city or county government as specified in the code of ethics.” Subsection 2 refers to “all elected officials of the cities or counties, and to appointed officials and employees as specified by each of the cities or counties.” Paragraph 3(b) refers to “all elected officials of each city and county government, and other officials or employees of the city or county government, as specified in the code of ethics.” In each of these provisions, the legislature has clearly delineated between elected officials, whom the code must cover, and appointees and employees, who are covered only to the extent specified in the code. In every instance, the term elected officials is preceded by the modifier all,and the term appointed officials and employees is followed by the qualifier as specified in the code of ethics.

In contrast to provisions quoted above, paragraph 3(a) says that a code of ethics must contain “standards of conduct for elected and appointed officials and employees” without the qualifying language all or as specified in the code of ethics. It is suggested that this paragraph indicates a legislative intent that all officials and employees be covered by standards of conduct set out in the code of ethics.

We do not agree. Plainly, it is impossible to give literal effect to every paragraph in this statute. One cannot say on one hand that the code applies to all officials and employees and on the other hand say that it applies only to the appointed officials and employees who are specified in the code. We are persuaded that the statute must be construed to allow the more specific provisions to prevail; that is, because the legislature stated three times that the code applies to all elected officials and to other employees as specified, those provisions supply the more carefully expressed legislative intent. The brief reference in paragraph 3(a) to “elected and appointed officials and employees” does not necessarily denote all elected and appointed officials and employees. Rather, it denotes those officials that other provisions of the statute make subject to the code.

We conclude therefore that KRS 65.003 does not require local governments to adopt a code of ethics containing standards of conduct for every appointed official and employee.

Chris Gorman

Attorney General

Ross T. Carter

Director

Division of Civil and Environmental Law