State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinions
What is an Advisory Opinion?
The State Ethics Commission may issue advisory opinions upon request. Advisory opinions interpret the ethics laws and apply those laws to the facts set forth in the request. There are two kinds of advisory opinions: formal advisory opinions and informal advisory opinions.
Formal advisory opinions are issued by the Commission itself based on staff recommendations and are binding on the Commission in any administrative hearing concerning a person who acted in good faith and in reasonable reliance on that advisory opinion. Because the Commission must vote to adopt a formal advisory opinion, it can take sixty days or more for the Commission to issue a formal advisory opinion after receiving a request. Formal advisory opinions are published on NMOneSource.com, New Mexico’s official database of state laws.
Informal advisory opinions are issued by the Commission’s staff attorneys. Commission staff issue informal advisory opinions on a short time frame, usually a few days after a request is received. Evidence that a requester relied on an informal opinion to make a decision is evidence of good faith efforts to comply with the law, but does not bind the Commission.
Who Can Request Advisory Opinions?
The State Ethics Commission may issue advisory opinions requested in writing by a public official, public employee, candidate, person subject to the Campaign Reporting Act, government contractor, lobbyist, or lobbyist’s employer.” Under the Act, “public official” and “public employee” includes state officials and state employees, but does not include officials and employees of local public bodies. Commission staff may issue informal advisory opinions to anyone subject to the Governmental Conduct Act, which includes county and municipal employees.
How Can a Request for an Advisory Opinion Be Submitted?
Requests must be submitted by post or in writing to the Commission’s email address at Ethics.Commission@sec.nm.gov. Requests must identify a specific set of factual circumstances and involve a question about the applicability of one of the provisions of law over which the Commission has jurisdiction. A written request should state whether the request is for a formal or informal advisory opinion.
If you have questions about this process or need assistance with filing a request for an advisory opinion, please contact a staff member of the SEC.
What Happens After an Advisory Opinion is Requested?
A request for a formal advisory opinion is typically addressed within 60 days of being received unless the Commission needs more time to answer the opinion, in which case, the applicant will be notified every 30 days until the request is addressed.
A request for an informal advisory opinion is typically addressed within 5 business days of receipt, unless Commission staff require additional time to research or write a response.
Are Advisory Requests Public?
Requests for Advisory Opinions are confidential and are not subject to the provisions of the Inspection of Public Records Act. Formal Advisory Opinions themselves are posted on the Commission’s website, but with the requester’s name and identifying information redacted. Informal advisory opinions, which are specific to the requester and the set of facts presented in the request, are confidential and are not subject to public inspection.