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Interpretative Opinion 07-03: Conflict of Interest

March 06, 2007
 

Mathew D. Cutts, Esq.
Patton Boggs LLP.
2550 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Dear Mr. Cutts:

This responds to your request for an Interpretative Opinion concerning whether a potential conflict of interest exists with respect to your proposed appointment to a four-year term as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Commission (DCSEC) and your employment as a partner at Patton Boggs LLP.

Specifically, you stated that one of your partners, Rodney Slater, owns a minority interest in the Washington Nationals baseball team which is the current tenant of RFK Stadium and will become the tenant of the new ballpark currently being constructed under the supervision of the DCSEC. You additionally stated that Mr. Slater’s ownership interest in the team is personal and is not connected to his partnership at Patton Boggs.

You also indicated that you are aware that, if confirmed by the Council, as Chairman of the Board of Directors of DCSEC, you may on occasion, make decisions that could affect the financial interest of the Washington Nationals and, it is your intention to act in the best interest of the District. In conclusion, you stated that you have no financial interest in any organization which has an agreement with DCSEC nor do you own any real estate which will be purchased by DCSEC.

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(b) (2001 Edition) provides that “[n]o public official shall use his or her official position or office to obtain financial gain for himself or herself, any member of his or her household, or any business with which he or she or any member of his or her household is associated with, other than that compensation provided by law for said public official. This subsection shall not affect a vote by a public official: (1) on any matter which affects a class of persons (such a class shall include no less than 50 persons) of which such public official is a member if the financial gain to be realized is de minimis…”

Based upon your representation that neither you or your law firm personally hold any financial interest in the Washington Nationals or any other sports or entertainment franchise or organization which is within the jurisdiction of the DCSEC, there does not appear to be any indication that your appointment will create a conflict of interest. The fact that Mr. Slater, who is partner in your law firm, holds a personal interest in the Washington National does not automatically generate a conflict of interest for you given that neither you nor your law firm stand to financially benefit or be adversely affected financially by Mr. Slater’s interest.

Nonetheless, you are reminded that if you are presented with a situation as a the Chairman of the DCSEC in which you are required to take an action or make a decision that would affect directly or indirectly your financial interest or the interest of any member of your household, you should follow the recusal procedures outlined in DC Official Code §1-1106.01(g); and, remove or disqualify yourself from official action.

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.