A County official's spouse's employer intends to submit a bid to provide materials to an organization. That organizationmay leter be an applicant for a County grant. The County official asks whether any issue is raised under the Ethics Code. Three provisions of the Code must be examined in responding.
Conflict of Interest
A "conflict of interest" is defined under the Ethics Code as:1
Use by a [County] official . . . of the authority of his office . . . for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he is associated.
"A business with which he is associated" includes "[a]ny business in which . . . a member of [his] immediate family is a director, officer, owner or has a financial interest."2
While the Ethics Code prohibits a County official from engaging in conduct which constitutes a "conflict of interest"3, the facts do not suggest any "use by [the C]ounty official . . . of authority of his office" in connection with this matter.4
Furthermore, even if there were "use by [the C]ounty official of the authority of his office", it would not be exercised "for the private pecuniary benefit of . . . a business with which [the County official] is associated" - as a County official's spouse's employer does not constutite "a business with which [the County official] is associated." Under the Ethics Code, such a relationship is too tenuous to give rise to a "conflict of interest."
Section 2-30.2(e) provides:
No [C]ounty official . . . or any business in [sic] which the person or his spouse . . . is associated shall enter into any contract valued at five hundred dollars ($500) or more with with anythe [C]ounty or any subcontrat valued at five hundren dollars ($500) or more with any person who has been awarded a contract with the [C]ountyofficial . . . is associated, unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process, including prior public notice and subsequent public disclosure of all proposals considered and contracts awarded. In such a case, The [C]ounty official . . . shall not have any supervisory or overall responsibility for the implementation or administration of the contract.
This section applies to the award of a "contract" with the County, a "contract" being "[a]n agreement or arrangement for the acquisition, ujse of disposal by the County of consulting or other services or of supplies, materials, equipment, and or other personal or real property." Section 2-30.2(e) does not encompass the County's award of a grant.
Appearance of Impropriety
An "appearance of impropriety" is defined as:
The conduct of a [C]ounty official . . . which does not constitute a conflict of interest but which undermines the public confidence in the impartiality of a governmental body with which a [C]ounty officer is or has been associated by creating an appearance that the decisions or actions of the [C]ounty official . . . or the governmental body are influenced by factors other than the merits.