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Interpretative Opinion 99-03: Conflict of Interest

March 26, 1999

Jacquelyn V. Helm, Esq.
700 E Street, S.E.
Washington, DC  20003

Re: Consultant Contract

Dear Ms. Helm:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning the propriety of your employment as a consultant for Councilmember Jack Evans in his capacity as Chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue.  Specifically, you state that you have been retained by Councilmember Evans to provide the following:  (1) analysis and advise concerning the Mayor’s estimates for revenues financing the FY 1999 and FY 2000 budgets; (2) analysis and advise concerning the Mayor’s proposed FY 2000 budget in general, as well as the budgets of agencies under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Finance and Revenue; (3) analysis and advise concerning the contract for renovating the Wilson Building; (4) advise and legislative drafting services concerning tax legislation; and (5) advise and assistance pertaining the organization and operation of the Committee on Finance and Revenue.  Further, you represented orally that you are an independent contractor under a personal services contract.

Moreover, you disclosed that you are currently a registered lobbyist in the District of Columbia, and that you and your firm provide lobbying services to the DC Bar and the Washington, DC Convention and Visitors Association.  You further disclosed the nature of your lobbying activities on behalf of these clients.  You represented that neither you nor your law office will perform lobbying services for either client during the performance period of your contract with Councilmember Evans.

Chapter 18 (Employee Conduct) of the District Government Personnel Manual (DPM), Section 1814.1,  defines a “government employee” as “any officer or employee of the District government who performs a function and receives compensation for the performance of such service, and special Government employees.  It does not include an individual performing services for the District government as an independent contractor under a personal services contract.”  Based on your representation that you are an independent contractor for Councilmember Evans, you are not subject to these regulations which govern the conduct of District of Columbia employees.

Notwithstanding the jurisdiction the DC Campaign Finance and Conflict of Interest Act, as amended, has over lobbyists and their activities, the conflict of interest provisions of this statute pertain to certain elected and public officials, persons serving in the Excepted Service of the District of Columbia Government who are paid at a rate of GS-13 or above, and members of certain DC Boards and Commissions.  Though not required in this instance, your disclosures concerning your clients, and the matters on which you lobby on their behalf, remove even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Based on the foregoing, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that your contractual relationship with Councilmember Evans does not fall within the purview of this office.  Should you require further advice, we suggest that you contact the DC Ethics Counselor.