|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: FROM: Josh Jones, Legal Consultant
DATE: Friday, June 17, 2011
RE: Conflict of Interest
Recently you asked whether a conflict of interest exists where a City water system operator also owns a private business operating boring equipment. In this private enterprise the employee contracts with water system customers to provide extensions for water connections. It is my understanding that this employee has no authority to make contracts for the city.
In my opinion there is no illegal conflict of interest here. However, if the employee is found to misuse his authority as an operator to foster his private business then he is subject to discipline under the applicable city law.
The state’s conflict of interest laws dealing with contracts apply only to elected officials, officers and persons with authority to make or oversee contracts. T.C.A. § 12-4-101 – 102. Hence this would not be applicable to the operator.
The employee is, however, subject to T.C.A. 39-16-402 which defines the offense of official misconduct. Under this statute a government employee commits a felony by committing an unauthorized act or refraining from a duty imposed by law or inherent to the job. Hence, if the employee used his capacity as an operator to steer work towards his private company that would have been performed by the city or that was unnecessary a claim of official misconduct could be levied.