This Advisory Opinion concerns the following issue as formulated from facts and/or circumstances furnished by a requestor. The Commission approved this opinion on September 12, 1996, basing its approval solely on the facts and circumstances stated herein.
May a grant application approved before an alderman took office be finally awarded to the alderman by the municipal governing authority the alderman now serves?Your opinion request to the Office of the Attorney General dated August 16, 1996, was referred by that Office to the Mississippi Ethics Commission on August 20, 1996, as your request involves the above issues that concern the Mississippi conflict of interest laws.
State law restricts the Mississippi Ethics Commission to interpreting and issuing opinions on Sections 25-4-101 through 25-119, 1972 Mississippi Code Annotated and Article IV, Section 109, Mississippi Constitution of 1890. Therefore, this opinion does not address the Mississippi laws outside the Commission's jurisdiction nor the governmental entity's internal rules and regulations.
The pertinent conflict of interest laws to be considered here are:
"No public officer or member of the legislature shall be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state, or any district, county, city, or town thereof, authorized by any law passed or order made by any board of which he may be or may have been a member, during the term for which he shall have been chosen, or within one year after the expiration of such term."
Code Section 25-4-103(f)(i)(ii), (g)(ii), (h), and (p)(i)(ii)(iii) states:
"(f) 'Contract' means:
(i) Any agreement to which the government is a party; or
(ii) Any agreement on behalf of the government which involves the payment of public funds.
(g) 'Governmental' means the state and all political entities thereof both collectively and separately, including but not limited to:
(h) 'Governmental entity' means the state, a county, a municipality or any other separate political subdivision authorized by law to exercise a part of the sovereign power of the state.
(p) 'Public servant' means:
(i) Any elected or appointed official of the government;
(ii) Any officer, director, commissioner, supervisor, chief head, agent or employee of the government or any agency thereof or of any public entity created by or under the laws of the State of Mississippi or created by an agency or governmental entity thereof any of which is funded by public funds or which expends, authorizes or recommends the use of public funds; or
(iii) Any individual who receives a salary, per diem or expenses paid in whole or in part out of funds authorized to be expended by the government."
Code Section 25-4-105(2) states:
"(2) No public servant shall be interested, directly or indirectly, during the term for which he shall have been chosen, or within one (1) year after the expiration of such term, in any contract with the state, or any district, county, city or town thereof authorized by any law passed or order made by any board of which he may be or may have been a member."Pertinent facts and circumstances in the form of the requestor's letter, absent identifying data, are attached hereto and considered a part of this opinion.
Based solely on the facts and circumstances presented by the requestor, the Commission's opinion is as follows.
Constitutional Section 109 and Code Section 25-4-105(2), both cited above, prohibit the alderman from receiving funds from the grant as the grant's final approval will be authorized by the governmental board of which the alderman is a member. Further, the alderman is prohibited from participating in the grant during the alderman's term and for one year thereafter.
The requestor is cautioned to advise the board member that a recusal or an abstention will not prevent a violation of Constitutional Section 109 or Code Section 25-4-105(2). Even without the board member's vote, the authorization by the member's board nonetheless results in a contract in which the board member has a prohibited interest.
Ronald E. Crowe Executive Director