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 and Development.