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Interpretative Opinion 02-04: Conflict of Interest

May 10, 2002

Mr. Chuck Burger
CBC Communications
405-6th Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

Re: Potential Conflict of Interest and Hatch Act Compliance

Dear Mr. Burger:

This responds to your request for a written opinion concerning whether your service as a member of the District’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), and your consulting firm’s contract with Councilmember Sharon Ambrose’s reelection campaign, present issues that may violate the District’s conflict of interest statute and/or the Hatch Act. You state that your firm, CBC, Inc., has been contracted to perform such services as image building, campaign management, etc., and will not be directly involved in fundraising activities for Councilmember Ambrose. You further state that your name will not be used in any fundraising activity, nor will you have personal involvement in contacting any entities for contributions on behalf of the Ambrose campaign. Moreover, you represent the following: (1) that you will recuse yourself from decision-making before the ABRA relative to any matter involving Councilmember Ambrose; (2) that you will not use your official position as an ABRA member to unfairly influence anyone affected by an ABRA action; and (3) that you will not solicit political or financial support for any candidate or party from an ABRA licensee.

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(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, . . .”.

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(g) provides, “[a]ny public official who, in the discharge of his or her official duties, would be required to take an action or make a decision that would affect directly or indirectly his or her financial interests or those of a member of his or her household, or a business with which he or she is associated, or must take an official action on a matter as to which he or she has a conflict situation created by a personal, family, or client interest, shall: (1) Prepare a written statement describing the matter requiring action or decision, and the nature of his or her potential conflict of interest with respect to such action or decision; (2) Cause copies of such statement to be delivered to the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics . . . , and to his or her immediate superior, if any . . .”.

18 DPM § 1804.1(a) (Employee Conduct Regulations) states that an employee is prohibited from “[e]ngaging in any outside employment, private business activity, or other interest which may interfere with the employee’s ability to perform his or her job, or which may impair the efficient operation of the District of Columbia government.”

Your representations indicate your general knowledge of the strictures of the District’s conflict of interest statute. Moreover, your stated course of action with respect to how you plan to handle issues likely to arise, as well as your propensity to contact this Office for clarification of questionable matters, should help to ensure your compliance with the conflict of interest laws of the District of Columbia.

Further, you should be aware that the District’s Employee Conduct Regulations, applicable to members of boards and commissions, govern the extent to which outside employment may be engaged. Therefore, you are cautioned to ensure that the work you perform for CBC and ABRA remains separate; for example, that CBC work is not performed on ABRA time. By doing so, it is unlikely that the efficiency of government operations will be impaired or compromised based on your non-government work.

As you may not be aware, the Office of Campaign Finance has no jurisdiction over the Hatch Act, which is a federal law enforced by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. For any definitive information concerning your campaign-related activity while an ABRA member, we suggest that you contact the Hatch Act Unit of the Office of Special Counsel by telephone on 800-85-HATCH or via e-mail at [email protected]