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In 1972, King County established a Code of Ethics and Board of Ethics through its charter to create a sound ethical environment for King County employees and agencies. In 1990, the County Council substantially revised the Code of Ethics, and the role of the board expanded significantly. A full-time administrator joined the county in 1992 to support the work of the board and to implement ethics programs.

The Code of Ethics establishes a set of standards which supports public trust and confidence in government and measures its performance in terms of responsibility and accountability to King County residents. The code provides standards in the areas of just and equitable treatment, conflict of interest, and post-employment activities. These standards apply to all King County employees (except those in the judicial branch), elected officials, and citizens serving as members of King County boards and commissions.

The King County Board of Ethics is a five-member administrative, advisory, and quasi-judicial board. Composed of citizen-volunteers from a variety of professional disciplines, the board renders advisory opinions on ethics issues, administers financial and consultant disclosure requirements, offers an education and training program, and hears appeals on findings of reasonable cause resulting from ethics investigations by the King County Ombudsman. Since 1990, the board has issued nearly 150 advisory opinions.

In 1994, the Board of Ethics began an intensive education and training program designed to better acquaint county employees with the Code of Ethics and the county's ethics policies, and to provide them with the decision-making skills necessary to resolve routine ethics issues within the workplace. Today, the Ethics Program provides ethics information during orientation for new county employees, a mandatory half-day seminar for supervisors, and on-site presentations for county agencies addressing department-specific concerns.

The Board of Ethics initiated an awareness campaign in 2003, designed to increase awareness of the Code of Ethics, the board itself, and the services provided by the Ethics Program. This on-going effort includes an Ethics Help Line, ethics publications on specific issues, and outreach to leadership countywide.

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