Filing Number: 91-08
Subject: Commission Jurisdiction
Keywords: appearance of impropriety, bidding, contract, department manager, disclosure, family, financial interests, impropriety, public bid, public notice, recusal, spouse, supervisor, undue influence
Decision By: Daniel J. Anker, Ethics Commission Counsel
Contact Email: admin@nccethics.org
 
Status: Active

Question:

          Is there any conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety where the spouse of a County employee bids on County contracts that are administered in full compliance with the public bidding processes established by the New Castle County government?

Conclusion:

           Based on the foregoing facts, the Commission is of the opinion that there is no conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety inherent in this case.

Facts:

           The person requesting this Opinion is not an "employee" as that term is defined in the Ethics Code because the person exercises no discretionary authority with respect to any of the enumerated provisions of Section 2-30.1. The person is, however, employed by New Castle County but not in any department to which the spouse submits bids or administers contracts related to the spouse's line of business. The spouse is and has been engaged in a line of business where she must comply with the public bidding procedures established by the County.

Analysis:

           Since the person requesting this opinion is not subject to the Ethics Code, there can be no issue as to whether the activities of his spouse can constitute either an appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest. That aside, the Commission feels that even if the Code applied to this situation, there would be no ethical improprieties where the person requesting the opinion is not affiliated with the County department that handles the bids or contracts upon which the spouse bids.
 
          For additional guidance, the Commission would like to emphasize that even if the employee were affiliated with the department with which the spouse interacted, there would still be no appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest provided that the employee disclosed the relationship and abstained from any activity regarding the implementation, administration or enforcement of the contract as it related to his spouse.

Finding:

          Based on the foregoing facts, the Commission is of the opinion that there is no conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety inherent in this case.
 
          This Opinion is based upon and limited to the facts and circumstances presented to the Commission by the person requesting this Advisory Opinion.
 
 
                                                           
Daniel J. Anker
Ethics Counsel
New Castle County Ethics Commission
 
June 17, 1991