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Interpretative Opinion 06-01: Conflict of Interest

May 10, 2006
 

Karen J. Wirt
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner
SMD 6C08
234 E Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20002

Re: Potential Conflict of Interest

Dear Ms. Wirt:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether Mr. John Han’s offer to donate his used Public Address (PA) system to ANC 6C, during the interim period prior to the Commission’s vote on a proposal to purchase a new system for approximately $3,000.00, poses a potential or actual conflict of interest.

Specifically, you stated that prior to Mr. Han’s proposed donation, the Commission voted to support his request for a liquor license for his nightclub/restaurant/entertainment establishment called Ibizia. However, you expressed concern regarding whether the Commission’s acceptance of his donated PA system would create a perception that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) owes him a favor, if he appears in the future to request support for liquor license renewal or permits for renovation, for example.

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.01(a) (2001 Edition) states “[t]he Congress declares that elective and public office is a public trust, and any effort to realized personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust.”

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.01(b) (2001 Edition) states “[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 a member of his
or her household is associated; other than compensation provided by law for said public official.”

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.01(i) (2) defines the term “business with which he or she is associated” as “any business of which the person or member of his or her household is director, officer, owner, employee, or holder of stock worth $1000 or more at fair market value, and any business which is a client of that person.”

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.01 (c) states “[n]o person shall offer or give to a public official or member of a public official’s household, and no public official shall solicit or receive anything of value, including a gift, favor, service, loan gratuity, based on any understanding that such public official’s official actions or judgement or vote would be influenced thereby, or where it could reasonably be inferred that the thing of value would influence the public official in the discharge of his or her duties, or as a reward, except for political contributions publicly reported pursuant to D.C. Official Code § 1-1102.06 and transactions made in the ordinary course of business of the person offering or giving the thing of value.”

D.C. Official Code § 1-309.10 (l) states “ [n]o Commission may solicit or receive funds unless specifically authorized to do so by the Council, except that receipt of individual contributions of $1,000 or less need not be approved by the Council. No person shall make any contribution, nor shall a Commission receive any contribution from any person which, when aggregated with all other contributions received from that person exceeds $1,000 per calendar year. Each Commission shall file with its quarterly reports to the District of Columbia Auditor required pursuant to § 1-309.13 (j) details of all contributions received during the relevant period of time.”

The conflict of interest provisions, represented in part by §§ 1-1106.01(a), (b), (c) and (i) (2), listed above, address a conflict or apparent conflict faced by an individual public official. Based upon your representations, Mr. Han’s donation of a used PA system is not intended for the benefit of any specific public official or member of a public official’s household. Therefore, the conflict of interest provisions are inapplicable, inasmuch as there is no basis to reasonably infer that any public official would be influenced in the discharge of his or her duties by the Commission’s acceptance of the PA system.

However, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission is allowed to receive charitable contributions in accordance with D.C. Official Code § 1-309.10 and must file a quarterly report in which all contributions are duly noted. In the instant matter, prior to acceptance of the PA system from Mr. Han, the Commission must establish whether the value of the system exceeds $1,000 in order to determine whether Council authorization to accept the donation is required.

Therefore, based upon the information you have provided it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that no apparent conflict of interest exists with regard to Mr. Han’s donation of a used PA system and to any possible future requests he may make of the Commission, in connection with his personal business interest, if receipt of the system is conducted in accordance with D.C. Official Code § 1-309.10.

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.