Ethics Code Ruled Invalid For Sheriff’s Dept, DA’s Office

A Montgomery County judge has ruled that an ethics code the county commissioners approved in April does not apply to the first deputy sheriff or 45 assistant district attorneys.

Senior Judge William Nicholas said the commissioners have no authority to regulate the political activities of people working for independently-elected row officers.  Vice Chairman Joe Hoeffel, who pushed the policy, says the ruling upholds his effort to make the courthouse less political.

“Our department heads, our high-level employees with discretionary legal and financial authority, will under this new policy approved by the court, be forbidden to run for office, raise money or manage campaigns.  I’m glad of that, so we got court approval for most of the employees subjected to our original resolution.”

At the same time, he says, it raises questions about activities the commissioners have regulated for years through an employee handbook.

“We don’t allow them to have outside income if it conflicts with their county jobs, for example.”

Hoeffel says he’s not sure how the ruling will affect the employee handbook, which was not part of the civil lawsuit filed by Sheriff John Durante and District Attorney Risa Ferman.