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What Constitutes A Conflict Of Interest?

Thursday, Sep. 23, 2010

Kimberly Cole is a member of the Lynwood, Washington, city council. She also works for the mayor of the nearby city of Edmonds, prompting some to question if those dual roles constitute a conflict of interest. The question becomes more complicated: she also serves on a board that oversees a public hosptal district in her county.

Holding more than one office sn't unusual in Washington, where people are allowed to hold multiple municipal elected offices -- as long as there the constituencies are not the same.

One must look at the role of each office (or job) to determine if it is possible to juggle both in a fair and impartial manner. There are opportunities for the lines to be blurred, as an employee seeks to do the best for his or her supervisor, even if that may interfere with council duties.

Cole previously worked for the county government, where her job involved more policy discussions.The mayor says she is more like an assistant in her current job.

Regardless of  job title, when an elected official makes a phone call, appears before a legislative body, or addresses the public, it can be difficult to distinguish the elected official from the employee.

Although the "multiple office" provision is allowed by state election rules, it doesns't necessarily mean it is a best practice.



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