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Interpretative Opinion 99-18: Conflict of Interest

December 30, 1999

Ms. Kathleen Donner
18 – 3rd Street, NE
Washington, DC  20002

Re: Conflict of Interest

Dear Ms. Donner:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning the possibility of a conflict of interest in your status as a member of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (Commission) and your employment as a contract employee through December 2000 in the Executive Office of the Mayor.  You represented that you were nominated as a member of the Commission in the Spring of 1999, and sworn-in as a Commissioner in August, 1999.  You further represented that you served initially as a volunteer [in the Office of the Mayor], and that you became a salaried employee in mid-July.  Moreover, you stated that your work for the Mayor’s Office entails organizing, managing and coordinating Millennium 2000 projects for the District of Columbia, as distinguished from your duties as a Commissioner for the Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

  DC Code § 31-2001 et seq. , established the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities “to evaluate and initiate action on matters relating to the arts, to encourage programs and the development of programs which promote progress in the arts . . .".” Further, this statute sets forth the composition and terms of members appointed to the Commission, and provides that “[m]embers of the Commission shall serve without compensation, but shall be entitled to receive, in accordance with applicable District of Columbia regulations, reimbursement for expenses . . .”.  The Commission is empowered to make grants, to contract with governmental departments and agencies, and to develop and undertake programs that will encourage participation in activities in the arts and humanities, etc.  It is noted that this statute does not bar employees of the District of Columbia from serving as members of the Commission.

DC Code § 1-1461(a) states, in pertinent part, “. . . elective and public office is a public trust, and any effort to realize personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust.”

  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, . . ., other than that compensation provided by law for said public official.  Pursuant to 3 DCM.R. § 3300.2 ( c), members of Boards and Commissions in the District of Columbia who are required to file Financial Disclosure Statements (FDS) are considered public officials for purposes of the conflict of interest statute, thus are held to the foregoing standards of conduct.  These standards prohibit any conduct, or activity, which could be reasonably inferred as engaged in for personal financial gain.

18 D.P.M. § 1804 restricts an employee from engaging in outside employment or any other outside activity which is “not compatible with the full and proper discharge of his or her duties and responsibilities as a government employee.”  For example, a government employee is prohibited from “engaging 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 efficient operation of the District of Columbia government.”  Your status as a Commissioner could be construed as “other interest.”

Based on your representations as noted herein, there appears to be no overlap in the functions or services you render to the Office of the Mayor and to the Commission.  Further, there is no evidence that your employment in the Office of the Mayor resulted from the use of your official position [as a Commissioner] to obtain such employment.  Therefore, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that there is no apparent conflict of interest presented by your simultaneous service to these entities.