What ethical and conflict of interest obligations do Board members have when they know and/or are related to someone who works for the district?
September 14, 2012
Ethical considerations and conflict of interest obligations arise when a board member either is, or may be making a decision which impacts a "relative".
For purposes of Oregon ethics laws relative is defined as:
(a) The spouse of the public official or candidate;
(b) Any children of the public official or of the public official's spouse;
(c) Any children of the candidate or of the candidate's spouse;
(d) Siblings, spouses of siblings or parents of the public official or of the public official's spouse;
(e) Siblings, spouses of siblings or parents of the candidate or of the candidate's spouse;
(f) Any individual for whom the public official or candidate has a legal support obligation;
(g) Any individual for whom the public official provides benefits arising from the public official's public employment or from whom the public official receives benefits arising from that individual's employment; or
(h) Any individual from whom the candidate receives benefits arising from that individual's employment.
A board member is required to declare a conflict of interest and not vote when the issue before the board is related to a "relative" as defined under Oregon law. The one exception to this rule is when the "relative " is a member of a "class" A class is when a group of individuals are impacted by the board decision not just an single individual. The most common example of a class is when the board member's relative is part of a recognized bargaining unit which is covered by a collective bargaining agreement. In this limited situation the ethics laws allows the board member to vote on the issue pending before the board.
However, none of the previous discussion addressed the potential for the community to perceive the conflict of interest and still be bothered by the board member's involvement in the decision-making by the board. This is not a legal issue but is one of public opinion and in those situations it's up to the board member how he/she decides to go forward.
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