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Conflict of Interest. State Ethics Commission. Conflict of Interest. Person A has role X regarding issues Q X requires competent/objective judgment regarding Q A’s having X thereby justifies others (B) to rely on A regarding Q

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Conflict of interest

Conflict of Interest

State Ethics Commission


Conflict of interest1
Conflict of Interest

  • Person A has role X regarding issues Q

  • X requires competent/objective judgment regarding Q

  • A’s having X thereby justifies others (B) to rely on A regarding Q

  • A (actually, latently, potentially) is subject to influence, loyalties, or other interests tending to make A’s competent objective judgment in X regarding Q less likely to benefit B than A’s occupying X justifies B in expecting.

(see Conflict of Interest in the Professions by Michael Davis, portions here from Davis’ work)


Bottom line
Bottom Line

  • a = personal interest (usually financial benefit/competition detriment)

  • b = official duty/public interest

  • c = objective, professional, or independent judgment

    Can a + b = c ?

    If not, seek a remedy


Conflict of interest2
Conflict of Interest

  • Any situation in which an individual or corporation (either private or governmental) is in a position to exploit a professional or official capacity (role) in some way for their personal or corporate benefit (role).

  • Therefore, conflict of interest = conflict of roles


Conflict of interest3
Conflict of Interest

  • Having a conflict of interest is not, in and of itself, evidence of wrongdoing

  • For many professionals, it is virtually impossible to avoid conflicts of interest from time to time

  • It can, however, become a legal matter if an individual tries influencing the outcome of the decision for personal benefit (a breach of the Duty of Loyalty) – see N.C.G.S. 138A-12 and 138A-36.


Conflict of interest4
Conflict of Interest

  • A conflict of interest may exist even if there are no improper acts as a result (“Conflict of Roles” and Conflict of Interest)

  • A person with two roles (e.g. a stockholder and government official) may experience situations where those two roles conflict

  • Having two roles is not illegal, but the differing roles may provide an incentive for improper acts in some circumstances

  • The conflict can be mitigated- but it still exists


The ethics act and types of conflicts of interest
The Ethics Act and Types of Conflicts of Interest

  • Self-dealing: in which public and private interests compete, if not collide

  • Outside employment: in which the interests of one job contradicts or competes with another

  • Family interests: in which a spouse, child, or other close relative is employed or where goods or services are purchased from said relative


Conflicts of interest
Conflicts of Interest

  • Other improper acts that are sometimes classified as conflicts of interest are probably better classified otherwise

    • Accepting bribes can be classified as corruption

    • Unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, in itself, should not be considered conflict of interest

    • Use of government or corporate property or assets for personal use is fraud


Ways to mitigate conflict of interest
Ways to Mitigate Conflict of Interest

  • The best way to handle conflicts of interest is to avoid them entirely

  • Short of avoiding conflicts of interest, the best way to deal with them is one or more of the following (mitigation) measures…


Ways to Mitigate Conflict of Interest(see 138A-2; 15; especially 36 [Public Servants and Official Actions])

  • Disclosure or “remedies”:

    • Severity of Conflict of Interest:

      • Likelihood that professional judgment will be influenced, or appear to be influenced, by the secondary interest, and

      • The seriousness of the harm or wrong likely to result from such influence or its appearance (see 138A-36 and Article 3 [138A-21-27:SEI])


Ways to mitigate conflict of interest1
Ways to Mitigate Conflict of Interest

  • Recusal

    • To minimize any conflict, the board member should not participate in any way in the decision, including discussions

  • Third-party evaluations

    • The cure (rules/law) can create difficulties in matching the rule to the great variety of conflicts of interest

    • A response to the common claim that ethics cannot be legislated: morality and law overlap/interact in many mutually reinforcing ways, especially with Conflict of Interest (appearance, potential, actual), as discussed in N.C.G.S. 138A: “The State Ethics Act”


Failure to recognize conflict of interest and act upon it may become felonious
Failure to Recognize Conflict of Interest and Act Upon It May Become Felonious

The courts have interpreted “honest services” to include honest and impartial government, and a general duty on the government official to act out of loyalty, honesty, independence, impartiality, and integrity.

Accordingly, the public has a right to have its public officials perform their duties free from improper influences, corruption, fraud, deceit, self-enrichment, self-dealing, and conflicts of interest.


Failure to recognize conflict of interest and act upon it may become felonious1
Failure to Recognize Conflict of Interest and Act Upon It May Become Felonious

The taxpayer, the media, and government leaders are paying attention- so should we.

These federal statutes, which predate The Ethics Act but whose potential applications are made the more probable, are the ones under which a former Council of State officer, a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina, a former N.C. legislator, and a former board member were recently convicted.

The Congressman is serving a four-year prison term, and the former Commissioner is facing a maximum of 20 years pursuant to the federal and state violations.


Remember
Remember May Become Felonious

Conflict of interest consists of a set of conditions by which professional judgment concerning a primary interest (e.g. patient’s welfare) tends to be unduly influenced by a secondary interest (e.g. financial gain); with a board, the primary interest is the business, mandate, or responsibility of the board, being influenced by a board member’s secondary (individual) interest.


Bottom line again
Bottom Line (again) May Become Felonious

  • a = personal interest (usually financial benefit/competition detriment)

  • b = official duty/public interest

  • c = objective, professional, or independent judgment

    Can a + b = c ?

    If not, seek a remedy


The trust test
The Trust Test May Become Felonious

Would stakeholders (“relevant others”) trust my judgment if they knew of my conflict of roles/conflict of interest?

It is easier to see Conflict of Interest in others than yourself; so, discuss with others and promote/act with transparency: This is the goal of the Statement of Economic Interest

(Article 3, SGEA)

(from Michael McDonald, Chair, Department of Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia)


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