Ex Parte Contact
A Few Words on Ex Parte Contact
Ex parte contact is the fancy term meaning when an individual - whether an applicant, supporter, objector, or average citizen - engages in communication (conversation or correspondence) regarding a pending application with a member of the decision-making body outside of the public hearing.
Examples include approaching a Historic Preservation Commissioner in the grocery store about a neighbor's remodeling project or asking a Councilmember at church to "just listen" but not offer an opinion about an upcoming conditional use application.
The reason such contact is not legal nor ethical is because:
1) it allows an individual to "influence a judge;"
2) it provides information to a single decision-maker instead of the "whole jury;" and
3) it does not allow for parties to hear or disagree with statements made "off the record;"
thus, subverting the fair and impartial public hearing process.
Therefore, please do not approach decision-makers regarding pending applications.
When ex-parte contact occurs:
> at best, a decision-maker may disclose he/she was approached inappropriately and restate for the record what comments occurred outside of the public hearing.;
> at worst, the decision-maker may not be able to vote.
When does ex parte apply?
- design review applications (also known as Certificates of Appropriateness);
- zoning action - conditional use applications
- zoning action - variance applications
When does ex parte not apply?
- discussion with staff (who are not decision-makers)
- zoning action - text or map amendments (which are legislative acts)
If in doubt? Just don't. Come to the public hearing or submit a letter to the City of Madison to make your comments known. Need to ask questions? Contact Planning & Development.