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Interpretative Opinion 03-07: Conflict of Interest

June 23, 2003

Claude E. Bailey
General Counsel
Washington Convention Center Authority
900 Ninth Street, NW. Suite 4
Washington, DC 20001

Re:  Potential Conflict of Interest

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether member Michael Dickens of the Board of Directors of the Washington Convention Center Authority (WCCA) has a potential or actual conflict of interest relative to his partnership in Hospitality Partners, a hotel management company that manages three hotels in the District of Columbia where Marriott is the franchiser and anticipates two new Marriott franchised hotels that will be constructed this year.

Specifically, you state that the District of Columbia Government has selected Marriott International as one of the developers of a new convention center headquarters hotel on Ninth Street, NW, directly across from the new convention center.

You further state that in his capacity of Board member, Mr. Dickens will chair the WCCA Board’s Headquarters Hotel committee and will work with WCCA staff, staff from the Deputy Mayor’s office, outside consultants and personnel from Gould Properties/Marriott to assist in determining the size and financing structure for the proposed new hotel, which may include some financial support from WCCA for its construction.

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(b) (2001 Edition) 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 compensation provided by law for said public official.”

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(i) (2) defines the term “business with which he or she is associated “ as “any business of which the person or member of his or her household is director, officer, owner, employee, or holder of stock worth $1000 or more at fair market value, and any business which is a client of that person.”

The fact that Mr. Dickens is a partner in Hospitality Partnership which manages three Marriott franchised hotels in the District and anticipates managing two new Marriott franchised hotels that will be constructed this year would not appear to present a conflict of interest unless there is a direct relationship between Mr. Dickens role as a member of the WCCA Board and the selection of Marriott International as one of the Developers of the new convention center hotel.

However, in view of the fact that Marriott is a client of an entity in which Mr. Dickens has a business interest, it is important to emphasize that he remain conscious of the fact that his duties and responsibilities as a WCCA Board member cannot at anytime appear to merge with his personal interest as a partner in Hospitality Partnership.  In view of the fact that in his capacity as a Board member, Mr. Dickens could have access to information that could financially benefit the Marriott corporation directly and Hospitality Partners indirectly, it is absolutely imperative that he avoid the appearance of any impropriety by strictly adhering to the provisions of D. C. Official Code §1-1106.01(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 any other person.”

Therefore, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that Mr. Dickens chairmanship of the Board’s Headquarters Hotel Committee and his partnership in Hospitality Partners would not pose a conflict of interest.