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How To Request an Advisory Opinion

Requesting an Advisory Opinion

The State Ethics Commission is authorized to issue advisory opinions regarding the duties and responsibilities of persons subject to the Ethics Act. The State Ethics Commission is further authorized to issue advisory opinions regarding compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Law. Advisories are issued as to Prospective conduct only.

Who may request an advisory?

Ethics Act - Any person subject to the Ethics Act may request an advisory about his or her own obligations. An Advisory may also be requested by the authorized representative of such person or by the appointing authority or employer of such person.

Lobbying Disclosure Law - A lobbyist, a lobbying firm, a principal, the Pennsylvania Department of State, a State employee, or the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania may request an advisory regarding compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Law. An advisory may also be requested by the authorized representative of any of the aforesaid individuals or entities.

How does one request an advisory opinion?

All requests must be in writing and must be signed by the requestor.

Write to the State Ethics Commission:

     State Ethics Commission
     Attention: Legal Division
     Finance Building
     613 North Street, Room 309
     Harrisburg, PA 17120-0400

and provide the following information:

  • Name, address, and telephone number of the subject of the request and if different, the name, address, and phone number of the person initiating the request.
  • Where applicable, the name of the governmental body with which the subject serves and the name or title of such person's public office or position.
  • If the requestor is the appointing authority, employer, or authorized representative of the subject of the request, the nature of such relationship.
  • Where applicable, the nature of duties of the subject's office or job. Include an organization chart, bylaws of the organization, if available, and a job description.
  • List the material facts and circumstances surrounding the request.

How is the request processed?

The Commission will advise within 14 days whether an advice or opinion may be issued. An advice is issued by the Commission's Chief Counsel where Commission precedent, court cases, the Ethics Act, the Lobbying Disclosure Law, or Regulations provide a basis upon which to render such advice. An advice can usually be issued to a person within 21 working days of the Commission's receipt of the request. In some cases, however, the time may be extended. An advice may be appealed to the full Commission.

If an opinion will be issued by the Commission members, requestor will be advised of the date, time, and place of the Commission meeting, at which the advisory request will be considered. The requestor may attend this meeting and make a presentation.

Will the advice or opinion be public?

The final advice or opinion will be available to the public as an official Commission ruling. The person requesting the advice or opinion may, however, require that the ruling contain such deletions and changes as shall be necessary to protect the identity of the persons involved.

What is the effect of an advisory of the Commission?

  • No person who acts in good faith on an opinion that was issued to him by the Commission may be subject to criminal or civil penalties for so acting, provided that he truthfully disclosed all material facts in the opinion requested.
  • An advice issued by the Commission's Chief Counsel is a complete defense in any enforcement proceeding initiated by the Commission and evidence of good faith conduct in any other civil or criminal proceeding if the advice was requested at least 21 working days prior to taking the action described in the request, the material facts were as stated in the request, and the subject of the request committed the acts complained of either in reliance on the advice or because of the Commission's failure to provide advice within the 21 working day timeframe or extended deadline.