If an enforcement matter is not settled or dismissed after an investigation, the Executive Director may pursue the matter ultimately leading to a hearing on the merits before the full Commission.
The Commission must first hold a hearing to determine if probable cause exists to believe that a violation of relevant law has occurred. The Commission may conduct the hearing itself or assign one Commissioner to hear the matter and make a recommendation to the full Commission. Reports and supporting documents submitted by the Enforcement Division and the respondent will be considered, but no live witness testimony is allowed.
The respondent has the right to be present and represented by counsel at the probable cause hearing. The probable cause hearing is closed to the public to the extent permitted by State law, unless the respondent requests a public hearing. If the Ethics Commission finds probable cause, the Commission must make a public announcement after returning from closed session.
If the Ethics Commission finds probable cause then the Executive Director will issue an accusation describing the relevant allegations. The accusation is a public document and posted on the Commission’s website. After issuance of the accusation, the Commission will hold a hearing on the merits to determine if the respondent has committed a violation of law. The respondent has the right to be present and represented by counsel at the hearing, which is open to the public.
Both the Executive Director and the respondent are entitled to pre-trial discovery under the California Administrative Procedure Act. The Enforcement Division and the respondent may present witnesses, other evidence and oral arguments to the Commission at the hearing. At the hearing, the Commission will vote to decide if a violation has occurred. In order to impose any penalty on a respondent, three Commissioners must vote in favor of finding a violation has occurred. Commission orders after a hearing on the merits are posted on the Commission’s website.
An enforcement matter may be settled through a Stipulation, Decision and Order approved by the Commission at any time.
Details concerning probable cause proceedings and hearings on the merits are set forth in the Ethics Commission Regulations for Investigations and Enforcement Proceedings.