HJR 31: Joint Subcommittee Studying the State and Local Government Conflict of Interest Act

June 18, 2002

The joint subcommittee is charged with reviewing (i) the definitions of "personal interest in a contract" and "personal interest in a transaction," (ii) the requirements for filing disclosure statements, and (iii) rules regarding the disqualification of officials from participating in a transaction when a conflict exists. In addition, the charge includes the review of any other areas of confusion or inconsistency in the application of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Conflict of Interest Act

The act became effective in 1987 as a part of ongoing legislative efforts to develop proper and workable standards of conduct that could be applied fairly and uniformly to state and local officers and employees. The intent of the act is to ensure citizen confidence in public bodies and to eliminate situations in which preference or undue influence could come to bear in the operation of government.

The process of developing the desired standards is consistently wedged between two principal needs. First, the need to have high standards of conduct to govern the actions of public officials and employees in order to guarantee that the performance of their duties would not only withstand public scrutiny but also foster public confidence. Second, the need to have clear and well-understood standards to govern such conduct so that public officers and employees could be judged fairly and so that citizens who undertake public service would have a fair understanding of what is expected of them in terms of continuing their private careers or business interests while fulfilling their public service. The current act seeks strike a balance between these two needs.


After the overview, members of the joint subcommittee discussed examples of situations raising conflict of interests issues. Two issues generated significant discussion. The first focused on whether it was proper for a member of a local governing body, who is also a schoolteacher, to vote on the budget for the school board. The second issue involved whether an option to purchase real estate amounted to an interest in real estate that required disclosure under the act and if so, how such disclosure should be made. Delegate Marshall noted that it was a similar issue involving a local land use advisory entity in his district that led to the introduction of the resolution to create the joint subcommittee.


The joint subcommittee members also discussed the appropriate scope of its inquiry. There was consensus among the membership that lack of a recent review of the act, coupled with the continuing evolution of the operations of state and local government, necessitated the inclusion of a wide range of issues pertaining to the proper application of the act.

The Prince William County Attorney, appearing on behalf of the Local Government Attorneys Association (LGA), stated that the LGA was in the process of performing an extensive review of the act with its membership. The review would include a survey of the LGA members regarding problematic areas of the act and suggestions for changes, a summary of conflict of interests laws in other states, and a compilation of reference materials pertaining to the act. The joint subcommittee members agreed that the work of the LGA would be extremely beneficial and should be included in the future work sessions of the joint subcommittee as it moved towards determining recommendations.

The next meeting of the joint subcommittee will be held on August 22, 2002, at 1:00 p.m. in House Room D of the General Assembly Building in Richmond.


The Hon. Robert G. Marshall

For information, contact:

Amigo R. Wade
Division of Legislative Services


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