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Interpretative Opinion 03-17: Conflict of Interest

September 3, 2003

Alan J. Roth
Lent, Scrivner & Roth LLC
1420 New York Avenue, NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005

Re: Conflict of Interest

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether a potential conflict of interest exists between your dual roles as the Chairperson for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C (ANC 1C) and a principal in a firm that is engaged in lobbying activity before the legislative and executive branches of the government of the District of Columbia.

Specifically, you inquire regarding whether representation by your firm before these governmental bodies and your personal involvement in representing the client’s interest, is permissible under the applicable laws and regulations.

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…”.

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(e) provides that “[n]o public official shall use or disclose confidential information given in the course of or by reason of his or her official position or activities in any way that could result in financial gain for himself or herself or for any other person”.

DC Official Code § 1-1106.02 (i)(2) states that “[m]embers of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions shall be covered under the conflict of interest provisions of § 1-1106.01”.

Based upon your representations herein, it would appear that your service as chair of ANC 1C and your employment with Lent, Scrivner and Roth would not, in and of itself, present a conflict of interest because the provisions of DC Official Code § 1-1106.1(b) do not prohibit you as a public official from engaging in otherwise gainful employment, as long as you do not use your official position to obtain financial gain for yourself, your firm or any of your firm’s clients.

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