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Interpretative Opinion 07-02: Conflict of Interest

March 02, 2007
 

Brian K. Flower
General Counsel
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 4
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mr. Flowers:

This responds to your request for an Interpretive Opinion concerning whether a potential conflict of interest exists with respect to the employment of the spouse of a Member of the Council by a company that currently holds contracts with the government of the District of Columbia.

Specifically, you stated that the employer of the spouse of the affected Council Member prepares reports for government clients including the annual reports for the State Education Office and the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation. You also indicated that the contracts were both awarded before the spouse began working with the company and the total dollar value of each of the contracts is less than $30,000.

You additionally stated that the Council Member has not used his official position to obtain financial gain for himself or any member of his household with respect to the contracts because the contracts were in place prior to his spouse’s employment with the company, and prior to him becoming a Council Member; and that the value of each contract will not exceed $1,000,000, and are thus, exempt for Council review.

However, you did note that the State Education Office is currently under the jurisdiction of the Committee of the Whole, on which all members of the Council serve.

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…”

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.01(f) provides that “[n]o member or employee of the Council of the District of Columbia … shall accept an assignment to serve on a committee the jurisdiction of which consist of matters (other than of a de minimis nature) in which he or she or a member of his family or a business with which he or she is associated, has financial interest.”

After a preliminary review of the facts herein, the employment of the Council member’s spouse with a company that currently holds contracts with the government of the District of Columbia that preceded her employment and the Council member’s election does not appear to present a conflict of interest. Based upon your representation that the Council member did not use his official position or office to obtain financial gain for himself, his spouse or any member of his household in this matter; and, that neither he nor any member of his household will receive a financial benefit from the contract, there is no indication of a conflict of interest.

As a result, there is no nexus between the Council Member’s prospective vote as a member of the Committee of the Whole and his spouse’s employment which would pose a conflict. Therefore, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that the Council Member may participate in the vote on the budget of the agencies in question when they are considered as part of the overall District budget before the Committee of the Whole.

Nonetheless, the Council Member is reminded that if he is presented with a situation as a Council Member in which he is required to take an action or make a decision that would affect directly or indirectly his financial interest or the interest of any member of his household, he should follow the recusal procedures outlined in DC Official Code §1-1106.01(g) or remove or disqualify himself 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.