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Thread: Conflict of interest in a legislative decision?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Conflict of interest in a legislative decision?

    Another ethics question, but this is an easy one, I think. Is there ever a time when a board member should declare a conflict of interest when voting to adopt policy? Say the town has discussed allowing a certain use, but has not yet amended the rules to allow it. Mr.Pink comes to meeting and requests a permit for the use. The board denies, of course, but notes that it will get to work immediately to write the desired amendment. When the amendment comes to the board for a vote, one member is unsure whether to abstain. Why? He is a real estate agent who represents the prospective seller of the land on which Mr. Pink has requested the use, and the sale of the land (resulting in big bucks for the realtor) depends on the passage of the amendment. I would say the official can safely vote, as it is clearly a legislative decision. Is this correct? What would you do?

  2. #2

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    I am not sure where Utah would stand on this. They've never been as strict. This person's voting would invalidate the decision in any "appearance of fairness" state, however. I think the safest way to play this is, for this purpose at least, to forget the distinction between legislative and quasi-judicial. You are operating in a very small community where everyone understands the consequences of this decision - which is that this real estate agent is going to directly and personally benefit. He/she should not participate in any way.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Here, we not only ask for any conflict of interest (as defined by an act) but also any pecuniary interest(money). If you answer yes to either you are invalidated from participating in teh decision making process. So with this guy, I'd say yes he is out as he gains to benefit directly from any decison made.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  4. #4
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by maximov
    Another ethics question, but this is an easy one, I think. Is there ever a time when a board member should declare a conflict of interest when voting to adopt policy? Say the town has discussed allowing a certain use, but has not yet amended the rules to allow it. Mr.Pink comes to meeting and requests a permit for the use. The board denies, of course, but notes that it will get to work immediately to write the desired amendment. When the amendment comes to the board for a vote, one member is unsure whether to abstain. Why? He is a real estate agent who represents the prospective seller of the land on which Mr. Pink has requested the use, and the sale of the land (resulting in big bucks for the realtor) depends on the passage of the amendment. I would say the official can safely vote, as it is clearly a legislative decision. Is this correct? What would you do?
    i think at a minimum he should disclose his relationship so it's transparent why his vote is a certain way -

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I always fall back to the principle that even if there is no ethical conflict, so long as there is the appearance of one, it is best to stay away.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    if the result of the vote benefits him financially, he should abstain. Sounds like it clearly would benefit him.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    He should excuse himself from the decision. Whether there is a legal obligation for him to do it or not, it flies in the face of being ethical. Perceived conflicts of interests often have the same impact on public perception as a legitimate conflict of interest (I think this is clearly a conflict of interest).

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Well, you all seem to agree- that's a relief, because although it may not be against code here it certainly FELT like it would be wrong. Thanks!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    I know one of the city's I worked with, they left conflict of interest issues get resolved by the person in question. I don't know if that is the most appropriate way to handle things. Personally, I'd base it on perception. If the connection can be percieved as a conflict of interest by the media, then I'd abstain. If it's a situation where abstaining is not possible, then you need to be forthright with the potential conflict of interest.
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