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Local Governments and School Districts Blog

Conflicted?

Authored by Kevin J.T. Terry
Posted on June 16, 2014
Filed under Local Governments and School Districts

If it hasn't happened yet, trust me, it will. Every public official seems to be put in a position of conflict while in office. Here is a link to a recent article about a City of Green Bay public official who has chosen to abstain from any further voting on a public issue involving Walmart.

The article does not specify what the exact conflict was that Mr. Moore had, however, the article does a great job of illustrating the proper way an elected official and a local government body should handle known conflicts. By abstaining from voting on the matter moving forward, Mr. Moore has properly addressed his personal and official conflict.

The Wisconsin Statutes govern the ethics of local officials. And while the below list is not all inclusive, here are a couple of bits to remember when dealing with conflict issues:

  1. No local official may take any official action substantially affecting a matter in which the official, a member of his or her immediate family, or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest.
  2. No local official may use his or her office in a way that produces or assists in the production of a substantial benefit, direct or indirect, for the official, one or more members of the official's immediate family either separately or together, or an organization with which the official is associated.
  3. There are penalties for violating the code of ethics as it relates to conflicts.
  4. ALWAYS ASK! It is prima facie evidence of intent to comply with Wis. Stat. 19.59, or any ordinance enacted thereunder, when a person refers a matter to and abides by the advisory opinion, if the material facts are as stated in the opinion request.

Our local government attorneys are always available to assist local government units and local officials as it relates to ethics issues and specifically conflict issues. Asking ahead of time will assure the municipality and local officials stay out of hot water!