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
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 and Development.