Code of the District of Columbia

§ 1–1162.21. Penalties.

(a)(1) In accordance with paragraph (2) of this subsection and except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, the Ethics Board may assess a civil penalty for a violation of the Code of Conduct of not more than $5,000 per violation, or 3 times the amount of an unlawful contribution, expenditure, gift, honorarium, or receipt of outside income for each violation. Each occurrence of a violation of this subchapter and each day of noncompliance with a requirement of this subchapter or an order of the Ethics Board shall constitute a separate offense.

(2) A civil penalty shall be assessed by the Ethics Board by order only after the person charged with a violation has been given an opportunity for a hearing, and after the Ethics Board has determined, by a decision incorporating its findings of facts, that a violation occurred.

(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (2) of this subsection, the Ethics Board may issue a schedule of fines for violations of this subchapter, which may be imposed ministerially by the Director of Government Ethics. A civil penalty imposed under the authority of this paragraph may be appealed to the Ethics Board in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (2) of this subsection. The aggregate set of penalties imposed against each person under the authority of this paragraph may not exceed $5,000.

(4)(A) In addition to any civil penalty imposed under this subchapter, a violation of the Code of Conduct may result in the following:

(i) Remedial action in accordance with the Merit Personnel Act;

(ii) A public censure imposed by the Ethics Board;

(iii) A non-public, informal admonition imposed by the Director of Government Ethics for low-level violations of the Code of Conduct such as:

(I) A one-time, minor misuse of government property;

(II) A non-habitual time and leave issue that does not have a specific harmful impact;

(III) A non-uniform application of a regulation or policy by a supervisor, where it is not a regular occurrence and was not for an unlawful purpose;

(IV) A relatively minor action based, at least in part, on advice or guidance sought in good faith from another, such as a supervisor, and given in good faith, though erroneous; or

(V) A minor, incidental ethics violation for which the person made amends and rectified the situation;

(iv) A finding of a violation and a period of probation after which a respondent may seek expungement of the violation upon successful completion of any probationary terms imposed by the Director of Government Ethics or the Ethics Board; or

(v) Any negotiated disposition of a matter offered by the Director of Government Ethics, and accepted by the respondent, subject to approval by the Ethics Board.

(B) A non-public, informal admonition imposed under subparagraph (A)(iii) of this paragraph may be appealed to the Ethics Board.

(5)(A) If the person against whom a civil penalty is assessed fails to pay the penalty, the Ethics Board may file a petition for enforcement of its order assessing the penalty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The petition shall designate the person against whom the order is sought to be enforced as the respondent. A copy of the petition shall be sent by registered or certified mail to the respondent and the respondent’s attorney of record, if any, and the Ethics Board shall certify and file with the court the record upon which the order sought to be enforced was issued.

(B) The court shall have jurisdiction to enter a judgment enforcing, modifying, and enforcing as so modified, or setting aside, in whole or in part, the order and the decision of the Ethics Board or it may remand the proceedings to the Ethics Board for such further action as it may direct. The court may determine de novo all issues of law, but the Ethics Board’s findings of fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.

(C) Any failure to obey the order of the court may be treated by the court as contempt.

(b)(1) Any person who commits a violation of the Code of Conduct that substantially threatens the public trust shall be fined not more than $25,000, or shall be imprisoned for not longer than one year, but not both.

(2)(A) Prosecutions of violations of this subsection shall be brought by the Attorney General of the District of Columbia; provided, that if the conduct also violates criminal provisions that could be prosecuted by the United States Attorney of the District of Columbia, the United States Attorney of the District of Columbia consents to the prosecution by the Attorney General of the District of Columbia.

(B) Notwithstanding subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, no prosecution for a violation of paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be made until the Ethics Board has conducted its study pursuant to § 1-1162.02(b) and the Council has, by law, specified violations of the Code of Conduct that substantially threaten the public trust.

(c) The provisions of this subchapter shall in no manner limit the authority of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

(d) All actions of the Ethics Board, the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, or of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to enforce the provisions of this subchapter must be initiated within 5 years of the discovery of the alleged violation.

(e) Notwithstanding any other provision in this subchapter, all equitable remedies at law shall be available for violations of the Code of Conduct, which may be in addition to any civil penalty prescribed in this subchapter.

(f) The penalties set forth in this section shall not apply to part E of this subchapter.


(Apr. 27, 2012, D.C. Law 19-124, § 221, 59 DCR 1862; Feb. 22, 2014, D.C. Law 20-75, § 2(b), 61 DCR 36; July 15, 2014, D.C. Law 20-122, § 2(g), 61 DCR 5688.)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-1161.01, § 1-1162.10, § 1-1162.15, § 1-1162.22, § 1-1162.32, and § 1-1163.38.

Effect of Amendments

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-75 rewrote (a)(4), which previously read, “In addition to any civil penalty imposed under this subchapter, a violation of the Code of Conduct may result in remedial action in accordance with Chapter 6 of this title.”

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-122 added (a)(5)(C).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Emergency Amendment Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-24, March 7, 2013, 60 DCR 3984, 20 DCSTAT 483).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-245, December 27, 2013, 61 DCR 135, 20 DCSTAT 2639).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(g) of the Comprehensive Code of Conduct and BEGA Emergency Amendment Act of 2014, (D.C. Act 20-323, Apr. 28, 2014, 61 DCR 4681).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Temporary Amendment Act of 2013 (D.C. Law 20-3, May 18, 2013, 60 DCR 4622, 20 DCSTAT 1266).