Raleigh, N.C. — The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee just issued Principle and Guidance stemming from an episode in House Speaker Thom Tillis' office this summer. Two staffers resigned after they told Tillis they had romantic relationships with lobbyists who were seeking to change policy at the General Assembly.
The one-paragraph memo is dated July 24, but Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, co-chairman of the ethics committee, confirmed this morning it has only been circulated in the past 10 days.
These "principle and guidance" memos put legislators and legislative staff on notice of their responsibilities. In essence, it establishes a rule by which members of the legislative community have to abide.
"Now if a member or employee did not follow the P and G, they would be subject to the jurisdiction of the ethics committee," Stam explained.
The guidance in this case is only two sentences long:
"To guard against inappropriate and unethical behavior, a legislative employee who serves directly at the discretion of a legislator shall not engage in a dating relationship or sexual relationship with a registered lobbyist or registered liaison personnel without disclosing that relationship to the legislator. A dating relationship is one wherein the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship; a casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship."