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Interpretative Opinion 11-02: Conflict of Interest

May 31, 2011
 

Commissioner Albrette “Gigi” Ransom
Commissioner ANC 5C12
Treasurer, ANC 5C
219 Webster Street, NE #2
Washington, DC 20011-4945

Re: Potential Conflict of Interest

Dear Commissioner Ransom:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether Commissioner John Salatti, ANC 5C04 should be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses for documents that included a graphic that was used in his 2010 campaign literature.

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.51(a) (2001 Edition) provides that “[n]o resources of the District of Columbia government, including, the expenditure of funds, the personal services of employees during their hours of work, and nonpersonal services, including supplies, materials, equipment, office space, facilities, telephones and other utilities, shall be used to support or oppose any candidate for elected office, whether partisan or nonpartisan, or to support or oppose any initiative, referendum, or recall measure, including a charter amendment referendum conducted in accordance with § 1-203.03.”

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.51(b)(1) states that “[t]his part shall not prohibit the Mayor, the Chairman and members of the Council or the President and members of the Board of Education from expressing their views on a District of Columbia election as part of their official duties.”

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.51(b)(2) states that “[t]his subsection shall not be construed to authorize any member of the staff of the Mayor, the Chairman and members of the Council, President and members of the Board of Education, or any other employee of the
Commissioner Ransom executive or legislative branch to engage in any activity to support or oppose any candidate for elective office, whether partisan or nonpartisan, an initiative, referendum, or recall measure during their hours of work, or the use of any nonpersonal services including supplies, materials, equipment, office space, facilities, telephones and other utilizes to support or oppose an initiative, referendum or recall matter.”

Based upon the information you have provided, it does not appear that the graphic in question represents campaign literature that is intended for the support or defeat a candidate or group of candidates for nomination or election to any public office. The graphic appears to depict silhouettes of members of a community with the words “Together, Building a Better Bloomingdale”, beneath the figures. Even though the graphic might have been included in literature used in Commissioner Salatti’s 2010 campaign, it does not include anything that can be exclusively associated with that campaign. In the current context, the graphic appears to promote common values as opposed to any current and existing candidacy.

The foregoing is an Interpretative Opinion of the Director of the Office of Campaign Finance. Pursuant to D.C. Official Code §1-1103.05, you are entitled to request an Advisory Opinion from the Board of Elections and Ethics on this transaction or activity.

Should you have any additional questions, please contact William O. SanFord, General Council at (202) 671-0550.