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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.