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Interpretative Opinion 02-03: Conflict of Interest

April 3, 2002

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

Re: Conflict of Interest

Dear Mr. Bailey:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning the Washington Convention Center Authority (WCCA) Historic Preservation Committee’s (Committee) decision to fund research for a heritage trail to highlight the historic and cultural features of the Shaw neighborhood in the District. Specifically, the issue is whether there would be a potential or actual conflict of interest for ANC Commissioner Alexander Padro, a former member of the Committee, to serve as a paid researcher in connection with the heritage trail project administered by the Committee. Although this request was originally received on December 5, 2001, further inquiry by OCF concerning several collateral matters were not obtained until March 26, 2002, thus delaying the subject opinion.

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(b)(2001 ed.) states, “[n]o public official shall use his or her official position or office to obtain financial gain for himself or herself, . . . other than that compensation provided for by law for said public official.”

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(d) states, “[n]o person shall offer or pay to a public official, and no public official shall solicit or receive any money, in addition to that lawfully received by the public official in his or her official capacity, for advice or assistance given in the course of the public official’s employment or relating to his or her employment.”

DC Official Code § 1-1106.01(h-1)(2) provides, “[n]o former member of a board or commission shall be eligible for appointment to any paid office or position under the supervision of the board or commission on which he or she served, unless: (A) At least 45 days have passed since the date of termination of his or her service as a member of the board or commission; and (B) He or she has followed the same employment application requirements of other applicants for the paid office or position.”

DC Official Code § 1-1106(i )(2) provides, “[m]embers of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions shall be covered under the conflict of interest provisions of § 1-1106.01.”

The District of Columbia Conflict of Interest statute (DC Official Code § 1-1106.01 et seq.), applicable to ANC Commissioners, prohibits the use of public office for personal financial gain. In response to issues raised by the Office of Campaign Finance, you represent that Commissioner Padro’s tenure on the Committee concluded in January 2001, which preceded discussions or deliberations relative to the creation of the heritage trail project. Based on the foregoing, you further represent that Commissioner Padro could not have positioned himself to benefit from deliberations concerning the heritage trail as he did not serve on the Committee at the time the discussions occurred. Moreover, you state that neither Commissioner Padro nor any other member of the Committee “has been or will be compensated for their participation.”

The heritage trail project, as described, requires research into the history and cultural background of the District’s Shaw neighborhood. The Committee, therefore, is seeking to obtain the research skills of a qualified historian to authenticate the Shaw community heritage trail project. As you know, it would not be uncommon for ANC Commissioners, as other elected officials, to bring expertise gained in other disciplines, as well as in their professional and/or other work-related capacities to enhance their public service. Consequently, it is quite conceivable that an ANC Commissioner may have obtained specialized expertise in an area that may be of particular value to their ANC or other related projects or work.

Therefore, based on your representations, notwithstanding the Commissioner’s status as a former Committee member, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that Mr. Padro would not violate the conflict of interest laws by serving as a paid consultant to the Committee on the heritage trail project at this time.