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Interpretative Opinion 99-09: Conflict of Interest

July 15, 1999
 

Commissioner Frank B. Withrow
6A03 Advisory Neighborhood Commission
232 E Street, NE
Washington, DC  20002

Re: Conflict of Interest

Dear Commissioner Withrow:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether your involvement with a proposed, three-year joint project involving the ABLE Company and the J. O. Wilson Elementary School of the District of Columbia, which was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education for funding, presents a conflict of interest.  You state that your wife owns ABLE, a small consulting firm, and you serve as the Director of Development for the firm.  You further state that ABLE will serve as the financial agent for the project, and that the company has waived all fees [associated with the project], and will make the resources of the company available for the project.  Moreover, you submitted, for OCF review, the proposed budget for the project, indicating the allocation of partnership matching funds (J. O. Wilson Elementary School, ABLE and federal funds).

  DC Code § 1-1461(b) states, in pertinent part, “[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 that compensation provided by law for said public official.”  The prohibition in this statute turns on the use of official office or position to realize personal gain.  It does not prohibit a public official from engaging in otherwise gainful employment, provided such employment is not conditioned on the use of official position; as for example, the use of your ANC office to [financially] enrich yourself, a member of your household or a business with which either you or a member of your household is associated.
  Notwithstanding your position as Commissioner of ANC 6A03, as Director of Development for ABLE Company, you are not restricted in your efforts to pursue funding for projects related to the mission of your private business.  Therefore, based on your representations, and the documentation you submitted for review, it is the opinion of
the Office of Campaign Finance that your proposal to the U. S. Department of Education does not present a conflict of interest.

The second issue raised concerning the appropriateness of an ANC entering into community partnerships with federal agencies for funding purposes is not within the purview of this Office.  However, we suggest that you direct this issue to the Office of the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia or to the DC Auditor for a dispositive response, in accordance with the provisions of DC Code § 1-263.