North Carolina State Ethics CommissionNorth Carolina State Seal

Ethics Complaints

Overview

The State Ethics Commission has the authority to investigate complaints alleging unethical conduct by covered persons and legislative employees. “Covered persons” include legislators, “judicial officers” (justices, judges, district attorneys, and clerks of court), and “public servants” (certain elected, appointed, and employed State officials). Not all State employees or appointees are covered persons. Also, local elected and appointed officials are not “covered persons” by virtue of their local public position. The Commission may also initiate an investigation on its own motion. The Commission has the authority to investigate alleged violations of:

Anyone may file a complaint, but certain requirements must be met. Each complaint must:

  • be in writing
  • be signed and sworn in front of a notary public
  • state specific facts alleging a violation
  • be filed within two years of the date the complainant knew or should have known of the alleged unethical conduct.

Here is the link to the Complaint Form

Once an ethics complaint is properly filed, the Commission will conduct a preliminary inquiry and, if warranted, determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred. If the Commission finds no probable cause, the complaint will be dismissed. If the Commission finds probable cause to investigate a public servant, the Commission may proceed to a hearing. If probable cause is found as to other covered persons, those investigations are referred to these forums:

  • Legislators, to the Legislative Ethics Committee;
  • Legislative employees, to the General Assembly;
  • Justices and judges, to the Judicial Standards Commission;
  • District Attorneys, to the appropriate senior resident superior court judge;
  • Clerks of Court, to the appropriate chief district court judge.

Complaints are confidential, unless the covered person or legislative employee authorizes its release, or for public servants, if a hearing is held. Commission hearings are open to the public. If a covered person or legislative employee violates the State Government Ethics Act, he or she may be removed from his or her public position.