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Conflict of Interest (need help with legalese)

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Songbird, Feb 14, 2016.

  1. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Have been working on something and for the next piece I could use some help from the legal scholars here to give me another perspective to work with. Can someone with a really good handle explain precisely, or close to it, "Indirect person interest"?

    General example I'm working off of: Person A is on Town Governing Board. Person A is married to Person B, who is on Nonprofit Corporation Board that gets Town Municipal Tax Money to operate every year. Person A is on the same Board as Person B and voted Yes to give Person B's (his wife's) board Municipal Tax Money. Person A should have, but refused, to recuse himself from discussion and vote.

    Here are 2 pertinent policies on Conflict of Interest:

    State League of Cities and Towns Conflict of Interest wording ...

    4. Indirect personal interest: A conflict may be present when a local official acts on a matter in which the member's judgment may be affected because of a family or personal relationship, or membership in some organization, and a desire to help that person or organization further its own interests.

    This Particular Municipality's Conflict of Interest wording (with sections I think apply to example) ...

    B. No person subject of this Policy shall:

    1. Be or become interested directly or indirectly in any manner whatsoever in any business or professional relationship with the Town of Hooville or any agency thereof which will accrue a pecuniary benefit to them, their spouses, family members, business partners or corporations in which they may have a financial interest. Exception: An elected or appointed member of a Town Board or Commission or his/her family members of a Town Board or Commission or his/her family members, business partners or corporations may participate in the Town's competitive bid process when such bids are received sealed and publically opened.

    4. Provide to any person or business, any information of a confidential nature which would provide the recipient with an unfair advantage over competitors, or any person, or the general public, including but not limited to, information regarding property sales or purchase3s, contracts, regulatory changes, employment opportunities, or public improvements, whether or not the provider has a pecuniary interest or is compensated for said information.

    5. Propose alterations, take part in debate, or vote, on any matter in which there exists or may exist, a conflict of interest as a result of familial, pecuniary, marketable, or equitable interest. However, this shall not prohibit such person from questioning a given policy if said policy is flawed or appears to be flawed.

    * * *

    Thanks for the help. Without even reading the 2 policies, the "conflict of interest" seems like common fucking sense in this situation: man on municipal governing board cross-pollinates wife's corporation.

    But I'd love to hear experts here such as @Amy
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2016
  2. Vombatus

    Vombatus Well-Known Member

    I'm not an expert, but this is clearly a situation where if enough people raise hell about it and bring it to the public's attention, what matters is that the PERCEPTION of wrongdoing can have a far greater effect than if someone can defend themselves by twisting it legally as kosher.

    Shit, Hillary just flashed through my mind.
  3. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Right, just the APPEARANCE of conflict should make those in question step back and say "I don't think I want to go there."
    Vombatus likes this.
  4. Amy

    Amy Well-Known Member

    Sorry, just saw this. I think the argument was that the rule wasn't violated because the wife, simply by virtue of board membership, did not receive a financial benefit from the non-profit's receipt of tax support.

    I agree that the prudent thing, to avoid even an appearance of conflict, would have been for husband to recuse himself from the vote.
  5. qtlaw

    qtlaw Well-Known Member

    The wife was a board member, which does technically mean she does not benefit from hubby's vote. Key however, is whether wifey is more than just a board member, does she get any pecuniary benefits? I'm thinking that since its a non-profit, wifey gets no pecuniary benefits from the non-profit (not an employee,etc.)

    Even if its not a violation, it just looks bad, "appearance of impropriety", and at the very minimum warrants journalistic scrutiny to let the Town's residents know just how their board is operating.
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