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Interpretative Opinion 97-08: Conflict of Interest

June 4, 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 of the Board of Directors of the Washington Convention Center Authority (WCCA) has a potential or actual conflict of interest relative to an [outside] business venture in which he plans to engage.  Specifically, you state that WCCA Board Member, Michael Dickens, is a member of Hospitality Partnership, which, in partnership with a number of other companies, responded to a Request for Proposal on April 15, 1997 issued by the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) for the redevelopment of a site to operate a 160 suite Residence Inn.

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 worth $1,000 or more at fair market value, . . .”.

On its face, the transaction you reference would not appear to present a conflict of interest.  However, according to your letter, Mr. Dickens is a member of Hospitality Partnership which is engaged in developing and managing hotels, while he serves concurrently as a member of WCCA.  In his capacity with WCCA, Mr. Dickens assumes 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. Dickens would become privy to information that could be financially beneficial to his primary  business, the management and ownership of hotels in the District of Columbia.  Consequently, we would caution that  Mr. Dickens 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.”