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Rules for Councilmembers Appearing Before Boards

​The SC Ethics Act prohibits municipal elected officials from representing a person in front of a body over which the elected official has official responsibility. "Represent," under the law, means to make "an appearance, whether gratuitous or for compensation, before ... a local or regional government office, department, division, bureau, board, or commission." And "official responsibility" means "the direct administrative or operating authority ... to approve, disapprove, or otherwise direct government action." The SC Ethics Commission has interpreted this term to include the authority to appoint members.

The general rule is that elected officials should not appear before boards or commissions over which their council has the appointment authority. It does not matter whether the elected official is being paid for the representation, or even whether the official has discussed the matter with the involved parties.

There are some limitations and exceptions. The technical term "appear" means to actively speak on an issue under consideration, and likely doesn't prohibit the elected official from simply attending the meeting. Elected officials can represent themselves in purely personal affairs or those of immediate family. Finally, the elected official can appear before a subordinate board or commission in performing his official duties. That is, if the elected official is appearing as required by law or official function, the Ethics Act does not apply.