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Interpretative Opinion 97-12: Conflict of Interest

December 11, 1997
 

Claude E. Bailey, General Counsel
Washington Convention Center
900 Ninth Street, NW
Washington, DC  20001

Re: Conflict of Interest

Dear Mr. Bailey:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether a member pending appointment to the Board of Directors of the Washington Convention Center Authority (WCCA) has a potential or actual conflict of interest in view of his employment with a major hotel and health care facility developer.  Specifically, you state that Terence C. Golden, President and Chief Executive Officer of Host Marriott Corporation, has been named by Mayor Barry to serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the WCCA; and that Host Marriott is investigating the possibility of building another hotel in the downtown area of the District of Columbia.

In his letter to the Office dated December 9, 1997, Mr. Golden stated he would assure that Host Marriott Corporation would not do business with WCCA during his tenure as Chairman of WCCA.  He further stated he would recuse himself from taking any [official] action(s) that might create or appear to create a conflict of interest.  In this regard, we certainly commend Mr. Golden for taking such a position of these matters at the outset of his service to the Government to the District of Columbia.

  DC Code § 1-1461(b) 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 that compensation provided by law for said public official.”  Pursuant to DC Code § 1-1461(i)(3), the term, “business with which he or she is associated” means “any business of which the person or member of his or her household is a director, officer, owner, employee, or holder of stock work $1,000 or more at fair market value, . . .”.

Therefore, in light of Mr. Golden’s representations, at the surface level, the appointment you reference would not appear to raise an actual conflict of interest.  However, in his capacity as Chairman, Mr. Golden will assume certain duties and responsibilities pursuant to statute pertaining to the management and operation of the Convention Center, including the lease of the occupancy of the facility.  Therefore, it could be argued that based on the very nature of the general use of the Convention Center (i.e., trade shows, conventions, etc.), it is conceivable that Mr. Golden would become privy to information that could be financially beneficial to Host Marriott Corporation.  Consequently, in exercising his official duties [relative to the Convention Center], we would caution that Mr. Golden should remain cognizant of DC Code § 1-1461(e) which 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.”