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Interpretative Opinion 03-05: Conflict of Interest

March 24, 2003

Charlotte Brookins-Hudson
General Counsel
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 4
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Ms. Brookins-Hudson:

This responds to your March 3, 2003 letter in which you inquired whether Interpretive Opinion #03-01, which was issued by the Office of Campaign Finance on February 14, 2003 would have reflected a different conclusion if Councilmember Chavous, the current Chairman of the Council Education Committee published a book on Charter schools but, received no “compensation” from the publication.

As we indicated in the above referenced opinion, the Standards of Conduct prohibit a public official from using his or her official position for personal financial gain and require employees and public officials to avoid activities, which could create the appearance of using public office for private gain.  Thus, the prohibitions on Mr. Chavous using information that primarily arises from his Committee Chairmanship or his position as a Councilmember would continue to apply.

However, if Mr. Chavous can clearly demonstrate that the extent of his financial involvement with the publication would be reimbursement for out of pocket expenses, the potential for a conflict of interest would be dramatically reduced.

Therefore, based upon the fact that there would be no apparent financial gain or remuneration that would inure to the direct benefit of the Concilmember, it would be the opinion of this office that the publication of his book on Charter Schools under those conditions would not be prohibited.