80.01

OPINION NO. 80-1

The Executive Director of the Governor's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice (LEAJ) has asked whether the conflict of interest provisions of the Maryland Public Ethics Law (Art. 40A, Md. Code Ann.) will be violated by the employment of a former LEAJ staff member by a Maryland county in a position which is supported by funds requiring LEAJ approval. The request involves application of §3-103(b) of the Law, which prohibits a former State employee from assisting or representing a party other than the State for compensation in a specific matter involving the State government if he participated significantly in the matter as a State employee.

This request was reviewed by the Commission in a hearing at which the LEAJ appeared through its Director of Administration. At the hearing, LEAJ's representative described LEAJ's statewide grant program to include several Regional Planning offices throughout the State, and Planning Coordinators' offices in various counties. Both of these types of offices are funded by general planning grants from LEAJ. The former employee's new position would be as a Planning Coordinator in a county. According to LEAJ's representative, the employee's position in LEAJ involved review, evaluation, etc. of grant proposals in a specific functional area of LEAJ's program. The employee reported to a program chief, who in turn reported to the Director of Planning. Another person employed in the same office reviewed planning grants such as those involved in the former employee's new position; this other individual reported to the same program chief and through him to the Director of Planning. The Commission was informed, however, that the subject employee did not participate in any way in the grant review process, either in review, recommendation, monitoring or evaluation, as to the planning grants generally or the particular county grant that funds the employee's new position.

Based on these facts, the Commission finds that no conflict of interest arises by virtue of the former LEAJ employee's acceptance of the county position. The post-employment provision is limited in its application to specific matters in which the individual participated significantly as State employee. Though this former employee participated in some grant matters at LEAJ, and was in the same office as the person who reviewed planning grants, the facts surrounding his activities for LEAJ do not support a conclusion that he participated significantly in this specific matter, that is, the planning coordinator grant under which his current position is funded. His employment as planning coordinator for this county thus would not, in itself, constitute a conflict of interest as contemplated by §3-103(b) of the Law. He should, however, take care as his relationship with his new employer develops, to avoid any potential conflicts that may arise as a result of his involvement, in his capacity as Planning Coordinator, with specific grants to his county in the subject field in which he worked for LEAJ, where he participated significantly in LEAJ's handling of the specific grant.

Herbert J. Belgrad, Chairman
   William B. Calvert
   Jervis S. Finney
   Reverend John Wesley Holland
   Barbara M. Steckel

Date: November 21, 1979