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Interpretative Opinion 06-05: Conflict of Interest

July 01, 2006

Charlotte Brookins-Hudson
General Counsel
Office of the General Counsel
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Suite 4
Washington, D.C. 20004

Re: Conflict of Interest

Dear Ms. Brookins-Hudson:

This responds to your request for an opinion regarding whether there may be a potential conflict of interest for a Council Member to hold a public hearing on B16-746, “Criminal Records Expungement Action Act of 2006,” at the ARC. You state that the ARC is a nonprofit organization, which, on July 13, 2006, has rented its entire building to the Public Defender Service (PDS) for the purpose of hosting a fair to distribute information about expungements of criminal records. You further state that “PDS intends to send a letter to the ARC relinquishing their use of the theater portion of the building” to make it “available, at no cost, to the Council Committee for the public hearing on Bill 16-746” on July 13, 2006.

While you “do not believe that this scenario poses a conflict of interest,” you request an opinion thereon from the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) as to whether a potential conflict of interest may exist as to the facts presented. You are correct; this set of circumstances does not present a potential conflict of interest under the Campaign Finance Act, D.C. Official Code §§1-1101.01 et seq. (2001 Edition).

D.C. Official Code §1-1106.01(a) states that “[t]he Congress declares that elective and public office is a public trust, and any effort to realize personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust.” The conduct of the public hearing by the Council Committee at the location, of the non-profit ARC, does not constitute activity to which personal gain inures to the members of that Council Committee.

This is an Interpretative Opinion of the Director of the Office of Campaign Finance. Pursuant to D.C. Official Code §1-1103.05(c)(1), you are entitled to request an advisory opinion from the Board of Elections and Ethics on this transaction or activity. If you have any questions, please contact William O. SanFord, Senior Staff Attorney, on (202)671-0550.