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Campaign Finance Guide
Section 11: Public Officials and Conflict of Interest

Who is a Public Official?
(DC Official Code §§ 1-1106.01 and 1-1106.02)

A public official is any person required to file a Financial Disclosure Statement, unless otherwise indicated. This applies to subordinate agency heads, individuals in the Excepted Service or Legal Service and paid at a rate of DS-13 or above, individuals in the Management Supervisory Service and paid at a rate of MS-13 or above, statutory office holders, elected officials, political appointees, members of Boards and Commissions, as well as those persons registered as candidates with the Office of Campaign Finance. Although members of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions are not required to file Financial Disclosure Statements, Commission members are subject to the Conflict of Interest statute.

Conflict of Interest Defined
(DC Official Code §§ 1-1106.01(b)-(f))

A conflict of interest exists when any public official in the discharge of official duties is required to take an action or make a decision that would affect directly or indirectly a member of their household (immediate family members), or a business with which the public official or a member of his or her household is associated.

Prohibited Activities
(DC Official Code §§ 1-1106.01(b)–(h-1)(2) and 1-1106.51)

Under the law, public officials may not:

  • Use their official position or public office to obtain private financial gain for the public official or any member of their household, or any business with which the public official or any member of their household is associated.
  • Solicit or accept money, gifts or anything of value to influence a governmental decision, or where it could be inferred that the thing of value would influence the government decision.
  • Solicit or receive any money, in addition to that lawfully received, for advice or assistance given in the performance of the public official’s governmental duties.
  • Serve on a committee whose jurisdiction consists of matters in which the official, a family member, or business with which the public official or a member of the public official’s household is associated, has a financial interest greater than $1,000.00. (This applies to members and employees of the City Council and Board of Education).
  • Influence or participate in the decision-making process on matters where any conflict of interest can or does exist.
  • Represent another person before any regulatory agency or Court of the District of Columbia while serving as Mayor, Senator or Representative of the District of Columbia, or City Councilmember. This does not apply to any appearance in an official capacity. Nor does it apply to the appearance by a Councilmember (except the Chairman), licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia, before any court or non-District of Columbia regulatory agency in any matter, which does not affect their official position.
  • Serve as a member of a board or commission and be eligible for appointment by members of that board or commission to any paid office or position under the supervision of that board or commission.
  • Appoint a former member of a board or commission to any paid office or position under the supervision of the board or commission on which he or she served, unless 45 days has passed since the date of termination of his or her service as a member of the board or commission. She or he is required to follow the same employment application requirements, required of other applicants for the paid office or position.
  • Usage of District of Columbia government resources, including budget authority, personal services of employees during their hours of work, and non-personal services such as supplies, materials, equipment, office space, telephones to support or oppose any candidate for elected office or to support or oppose any initiative, referendum, or recall measure in the District of Columbia.

Conflict of Interest Procedures for Public Officials Other than Chairpersons
(DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(g))

If a public official has a conflict or potential conflict of interest, the public official should prepare a written statement describing the following:

  • The matter requiring action or decision
  • The nature of the potential conflict of interest with respect to the action or decision

A copy of the prepared statement should be delivered to the Director of Campaign Finance and to the Board of Elections and Ethics. A copy should also be delivered to the public official’s immediate superior. The superior of the public official must take the following steps:

  • Cause the statement to be printed in the record of proceedings of the body of which the person is a member or employee
  • Upon request of the member, excuse the member from votes, deliberations, and other actions on the matter on which a conflict or potential conflict exists

After receipt of a statement of a conflict or potential conflict of interest, the immediate superior of the public official (except if the Mayor or a Councilmember) will reassign the matter to another employee who is not subordinate to the relieved employee, and who does not have a potential conflict of interest.

Conflict of Interest Procedures for Chairpersons
(DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(g)(4))

Procedures vary for handling conflicts of interest for the Chairperson of the Council, President of the Board of Education, or Chairperson of any District Board or Commission. The chairperson or president is still required to file a written statement describing the nature of the matter requiring action or decision on the potential conflict of interest.

The written statement should include the following:

  • The matter requiring action or decision
  • The nature of the potential conflict of interest with respect to such action or decision

The chairperson will deliver a copy of the statement to the chairperson pro tempore, or the vice-chairperson of the Council, or Board or Commission of which he or she is the chairperson. After the statement has been received, the chairperson pro tempore or the vice chairperson will:

  • Cause the statement to be printed in the record of proceedings of the body of which the person is a member
  • Excuse the chairperson from votes, deliberations, and other action on the matter on which a potential conflict exists, upon his or her request

Failure to Disclose Conflict of Interest
(DC Official Code § 1-1103.02(c))

In the event a public official fails to excuse himself or herself as required under the Campaign Finance Act, and has voted, deliberated or taken other action on a matter in which a conflict or potential conflict of interest exists, the Director of Campaign Finance, or the Board of Elections and Ethics, will issue a complaint of Conflict of Interest. After a presentation by the Director, a public hearing may result. If the Board makes a finding of an apparent violation of the conflict of interest provisions of the Campaign Finance Act, the Board will refer the matter to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution and civil action relating to the enforcement of the conflict of interest provisions.

Investigation of Conflicts of Interest
(DC Official Code § 1-1103.02(c))

The Director of the Office of Campaign Finance may begin an investigation in any case in which the Director has reason to believe that information contained in the statement of a potential conflict of interest may indicate a conflict between the financial interest of the public official concerned and the performance of the public official’s services for the District of Columbia government.

Things to Remember

  • A conflict of interest exists when a public official in the discharge of official duties, would be required to take an action or make a decision that would affect directly or indirectly the official’s own financial or personal interest, a member of the public official’s household, or a business with which the official or a member of the official’s household is associated.
  • When confronted with a conflict of interest, the public official must take the appropriate action to affect removal from the conflict of interest.