Recusal

Recusal is the process by which a person is disqualified or disqualifies him or herself from participation in a matter due to a conflict of interest. Because of frequent inquiries regarding the necessity for recusal, the Commission in 2001 adopted rules N.J.A.C. 19:61-7.1 et seq. The purpose of the recusal rule is to provide State officials with guidance regarding the circumstances under which they must recuse, and to establish procedures for properly effectuating a recusal. The rule applies to: full- and part-time State employees; members of boards, commissions, committees, and authorities; and persons appointed as New Jersey members of interstate agencies.

Recusal is required when:

  • there exists any financial or personal interest, direct or indirect, that is incompatible with the discharge of the State official’s public duties.
  • a financial or personal interest might reasonably be expected to impair a state official’s objectivity and independence of judgment in the exercise of his or her official duties or create an appearance of impropriety.
A financial or personal interest includes, but is not limited to:
  • outside employment;
  • a debtor or creditor relationship;
  • a fiduciary relationship;
  • a source of income;
  • a matter pertaining to a relative or cohabitant;
  • a matter pertaining to a business associate or business investment; or
  • a leadership role in a professional or trade organization.

Recusal may be required in other situations even in the absence of such financial or personal interests depending on the totality of the circumstances.

If a State official is requested to recuse him or herself, the State official must seek advice from the agency’s counsel, the agency’s ethics liaison officer, or the State Ethics Commission. A review of the facts and circumstances will be conducted, and a decision will be made as to whether recusal is appropriate. Any oral advice should subsequently be memorialized in writing or included in public minutes so that a record exists.

There is a proper procedure for recusal:
  • The recusal must be in writing.  (See the State's Recusal Statement )
  • The notice must contain the reason for the recusal and the date.
  • The notice must specify the duration and effect of the recusal.
  • The notice must specify the name of the person who will assume responsibility.
  • The notice should be disseminated to all affected persons and to the agency ethics liaison officer.
In cases in which the State agency maintains a public record of the proceedings, formal written recusal is not required. To the extent feasible, there should be no distribution of relevant meeting materials to the recused person. (This may not always be possible because the State official may not become aware of a recusal issue until the meeting commences and all parties are present.) The reason for recusal must be placed on the record prior to any discussion of the matter. The State official must leave the room during the relevant non-public portion of the meeting.

Procurement Resources and Forms

Department of the Treasury Business Ethics Guide:
http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/purchase/ethics.htm

Personal and Business Relationship Disclosure Form:
http://nj.gov/ethics/docs/forms/bdf.pdf

Personal and Business Relationship Disclosure Form FAQs:
http://nj.gov/ethics/docs/forms/faqbdf.pdf

Recusal Rule:
http://nj.gov/ethics/statues/rules/#8