Conflict of Interest

Public office is a public trust to be protected from the danger of conflict of interest. A conflict occurs when an official's responsibilities, duties, or activities conflict with the officials' private interests whether they are of a business, family, social, or other nature.
  1. To Whom Does It Apply?
  2. Restrictions on Use of Position or Office
  3. Restraints on Votes, Deliberations & Discussions
  4. Other Restraints
  5. Post Employment Restrictions
  6. Voiding Contracts

 


To Whom Does It Apply?

All public officials, public employees, and former public employees and officials, must comply with conflict of interest restrictions.

 


Restrictions on Use of Position or Office

Public officials/employees shall not:

  • use their office/staff to seek employment or conduct business.
  • use their position to obtain private gain or advantage for themselves, a relative, or an entity in which they have a present or potential financial interest.
  • disclose or use confidential information that is not generally available to the public for their own or another person's financial benefit.
  • participate in transactions that they may substantially influence if they know that a relative, friend, or associate has a substantial financial interest in them. If the Public Auditor finds that such a violation occurred, he may cancel the transaction if the public interest would be served and if an innocent third party would not be adversely affected.
  • use public funds, time, or equipment for their own private gain, unless authorized by law. 

Restraints on Votes, Deliberations & Discussions

  • Public officials shall not participate in, vote on, influence or attempt to influence an official decision if they, or the business they are associated with, have a financial interest or can potentially benefit from the matter, unless the interest or benefit is incidental to their position or would normally accrue to them in their profession, occupation, or class.
  • Public officials may however participate in a discussion or vote on a decision if the only financial interest or benefit is incidental or would normally accrue to them in their profession, occupation, or class. 

Other Restraints

Public officials/employees shall not:

  • participate in any matter which will affect the financial interests of an individual or organization with which they are negotiating future employment.
  • use public funds, time, or equipment for political activity unless it is authorized by law or is incidental to a legally authorized or required activity. 
  • appear as advocates or attorneys for another person before a Commonwealth entity. They may however appear for themselves, immediate family, principal employer, or on a purely ministerial matter. 
  • represent anyone whom they have represented for a fee or other consideration within the preceding 12 months. 
  • have a business partnership with anyone who provides representation before the Commonwealth government for a fee or other consideration. 
  • authorize or request another person on their behalf to perform an act prohibited by the conflict of interest provisions of the Ethics Code. 
  • participate in obtaining a public contract in which they or immediate family members have an interest.

A public member of a board, commission, or council may represent a client or constituent before a Commonwealth entity only after first filing a financial disclosure statement stating the services rendered. A disclosure statement is not necessary for purely ministerial matters that do not require discretion.


Post Employment Restrictions

Former public officials/employees:

  • shall not assist in any judicial, legislative, or administrative proceeding if they previously participated personally and substantially in it while in office or employed by the Commonwealth.
  • shall not for one year after public employment or office assist or represent anyone in a business transaction involving the Commonwealth if they participated personally and substantially in it while in office or employment.
  • shall not disclose or use confidential information that is not generally available to the public for their own or another person's financial benefit. 

Voiding Contracts

Violations of the Ethics Code will be addressed by the Court. In addition, the Public Auditor may cancel or rescind any contracts where public officials or employees participated in a transaction involving their government entity:

  • where they should reasonably have known that their participation substantially influenced the transaction, and
  • if they knew that someone with whom they had a family, personal, financial, or other non-business relationship had a substantial economic interest in the transaction.

Note: The above text is not a complete analysis of the Ethics Code and is intended as a guide only