January 09, 2007
Brian K. Flowers
Council of the District of Columbia Interpretative Opinion 07-01
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
Re: Conflict of Interest
Dear Mr. Flowers:
This responds to your request for an expedited opinion concerning whether the participation by Councilmember Mary Cheh in a vote on the approval of Bill 16-1068, the School Without Walls Development Temporary Amendment Act of 2006, would pose a conflict of interest. For your information, the regulations of the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) provide that the Director shall respond to a request for an interpretative opinion within thirty (30) days. See 3 D.C.M.R. §3305.5 (June 1994, as amended in June 2006).
The 30 day window allows ample time for OCF to fully research the law, and all facts and questions presented, prior to issuing an opinion. OCF is acting in an expeditious manner herein because, as you state, the facts appear to be similar to those considered in OCF Interpretative Opinion 06-03 (June 5, 2006). Moreover, you represent that Councilmember Cheh has no financial interest pertaining to the considered subject matter.
Specifically, you state that your inquiry is based upon the following relevant facts:
(a) The legislation, which has been in effect in some form since February 27, 2006, would authorize the Board of Education to sell and convey a portion of the School Without Walls (SWW) property and density rights to George Washington University (GWU) to renovate and expand SWW, pursuant to a development partnership; and,
(b) Councilmember Cheh, is a GWU employee, a law professor, and “owns no stock or holds any other interest in the university. Therefore, Councilmember Cheh would not derive any financial benefit, either directly or indirectly, from the approval of the legislation.”
D.C. 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.”
Upon a preliminary review of the facts herein, Councilmember Cheh’s participation in a vote on the approval of Bill 16-1068 would not present a conflict of interest so long as she did not use her official position or office as “councilmember” to obtain financial gain for herself or any member of her household in this matter; and, neither she nor any member of her household will receive a financial benefit from the enactment -- or the lack thereof -- of the bill. As previously stated, based upon your representations herein, although Councilmember Cheh is a GWU employee, her personal interest in this matter is de minimis because ““owns no stock or holds any other interest in the university.”
Thus, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that Councilmember Cheh may participate in the vote on the approval of Bill 16-1068.
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.