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Interpretative Opinion 04-01: Conflict of Interest

July 01, 2004

Charlotte Brookins-Hudson
General Counsel
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Suite 4
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Ms. Brookins-Hudson:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether a potential conflict of interest exist for an employee of the Council to hold positions on the boards of DC Apple- seed Center for Law and Justice and the Gateway Georgia Avenue Revitalization Corporation. You recently clarified that the employee is paid at a grade DS-13 or above and pursuant to D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.02(a), falls within the class of employees who are subject to the Office of Finance’s enforcement of the Standards of Conduct. You indicated that the Appleseed Center has examined several District government operations, including the Council and the Office of Corporation Counsel and the Gateway Georgia Avenue Revitalization Corporation is an entity that conducts business with the District of Columbia government.

D.C. Official Code §1-618.01(a) (2001 Edition) provides that “each employee of the District government must at all times maintain a high level of ethical conduct in connection with the performance of official duties, and shall refrain from taking, ordering, or participating in any official action which would adversely affect the confidence of the public in the integrity of the District government”.

District Personnel Manual (DPM) § 1804.1 provides that “[a]n employee may not engage in any outside employment or activity which is not compatible with the full and proper discharge of his or her duties and responsibilities as a government employee. Activities or actions which are not compatible with government employment includes, but are not limited to, the following:

“(a) 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 the efficient operation of the District of Columbia government;

“(b) Using government time or resources for other than official business, or government approved or sponsored activities, except that a District employee may spend a reasonable amount of government time and resources on such projects, reports, and studies as may be considered in aid of other government jurisdictions (local, state, or federal), provided the work so performed is within the scope of the individual’s regular assignments as a District employee;

“(c) Ordering, directing, or requesting subordinate officers or employees to perform during regular working hours any personal services not related to official D.C. government functions and activities;

“(d) Maintaining financial or economic interest in serving (with or without compensation) as an officer or director of an outside entity if there is any likelihood that such entity might be involved in an official government action or decision taken or recommended by the employee;

“(e) Engaging in any outside employment, private business activity or interest which permits an employee or others to capitalize on his or her official position;

“(f) Divulging any official government information to any unauthorized person or in advance or the time prescribed for its authorized issuance, or otherwise making use of or permitting others to make use of information not available to the general public;

“(g) Engaging in any outside employment, private business activity, or other interest which might impair an employee’s mental or physical capacity to such an extent that he or she can on longer carry out his or her duties and responsibilities as a government employee in a proper and efficient manner;

“(h) Serving in a representative capacity or as an agent or attorney for any outside entity involving any matter before the District of Columbia; or

“(i) Engaging in any outside employment, private business activity, or other interest which is in violation of federal or District law.”

Based upon your representations herein, it would appear that the Council employee’s involvement in the above referenced organizations would not, in and of itself, present a conflict of interest because the provisions of D.C. Official Code § 1-618.01(a) and DPM §1804. U.S. C. § 208 would not prohibit her from participating in community groups, as long as she does not use her official position to obtain financial gain for herself, or any group with which the she is affiliated and does not disclose confidential information provided to her in connection with her official duties.

Nonetheless, the Council employee is reminded that if she is presented with a situation as a Council employee in which she is required to take an action or make a decision that would affect directly or indirectly her financial interest or the interest of any group with whom she is involved, she should follow the recusal procedures outlined in DC Official Code §1-1106.01(g) or remove or disqualify yourself from official action.

Therefore, based upon the information you have provided, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that Council employee’s service on a boards of a private entities that conduct business with the District government would not per se violate either the statute or the Standards of Conduct.