Arizona Law Requires Public Officers, Employees To Avoid Conflicts Of Interest

Arizona State Capitol Executive Tower [Wikimedia Commons]

Arizona law requires public officers and employees to avoid conflicts of interest that might influence or affect their official conduct. Determining whether a conflict of interest exists requires public officers and employees to evaluate statutorily-established standards and exceptions to determine whether their personal interests, or those of certain family members result in a conflict of interest.

To that end, Chief Justice Cordozo in the case of Meinhard – vs – Salmon wrote for the New York Court of Appeals as follows: “A trustee is held to something stricter than the morals of the market place. Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior.”

Arizona Revised Statutes, 38-503 provides:

A: “Any public officer or employee of a public agency who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any contract, sale, purchase or service to such public agency shall make known that Interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from voting upon or otherwise participating in any manner aas an officer or employee in such contract, sale or purchase.

B: Any public officer or employee who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall make known such interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such decision.”

It is necessary to point out what is referred to as Rule 10. Arizona Revised Statute 38-502 (10) “ REMOTE INTEREST” means (j) “That of a member of a trade, business, occupation, profession or class of persons consisting of at least ten members which is no greater than the interest of the other members of that trade, business, occupation, profession or class of persons.”

The above information is provided to give you some background on a recent conversation that I had with a member of our state legislature regarding conflicts of interest. It was my contention that a Legislator that personally has, or has a family member with an interest in pending legislation should not vote on that legislation and should recuse themself from taking action.

Recently the Governor proposed that school teachers in the State of Arizona be given a salary increase amounting to a total of 20 percent by the beginning of the school year in 2020. The legislature acted upon that proposal and passed legislation granting the salary increase referred to as 20X2020.  Now, there are members of the legislature that are school teachers or have members of their family that teach school. MY CONTENTION is that such members of the legislature have a conflict of interest and should have refrained from voting on the measure. In essence they gave themselves or their family members a 20% pay increase. That is a substantial personal interest on matters pending before them creating a clear conflict of interest.

The legislator with whom I spoke stated there was no conflict in that the legislature applies the Rule of 10. See Arizona Revised Statute 38-502 (10) “ REMOTE INTEREST” means (j). In other words, if the action of the legislators in question would benefit 10 people other than themselves, then no conflict of interest exists.

In my humble opinion that rule does not extinguish the obvious conflict of interest. Thus the votes of those individual should not have been counted as either for or against the legislation.

That prompted another question. If a legislator is also school teacher and the legislature meets during the school year which it obviously does, is the legislator entitled to collect a salary as both a teacher and as a legislator and to acquire benefits in both capacities. My trusty legislator assured me that they were entitled to salary and benefits in both capacities at the same time.

Perhaps we should be insisting on legislation that precludes conflicts of interest by our legislators with no exceptions and also precludes double dipping in salary and benefits.  Just my thoughts.

1 Comment

  1. Legislators who also teach may have a conflict of interest and the Rule of 10 may or may not be applicable and fair, but the answer to your other question is clear. Can a person work two jobs and receive pay and benefits for both? Of course! Welcome to the real world, where people in many fields work two jobs to make ends meet.

    It would be most interesting to see some good data on what percentage of state legislators and teachers have to work a second job. I’ve been a teacher in Arizona for eight years and don’t work a second job. Instead, I lived in my van for a year and a half, then was able to make the down payment on a $40,000 quarter-acre lot with a “tear-down” structure on it (meaning substandard septic, plumbing and electrical systems; no central heat, insulation or storm windows; and termites throughout). Instead of a second job I work on the house when I have time after my 60 hour work week. I’m also in the process–like many of my colleagues–of moving to another state where housing is cheaper and teachers are paid more.

    And no, I’m not a liberal nor a progressive nor a socialist nor a Democrat nor involved with RedForEd, and I don’t indoctrinate my students.

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