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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

The Academy for New York State's Local Officials

Protecting the Public’s Interest: A Tutorial on Local Government Ethics and Transparency in New York State

Module 1 - Conflict of Interest of Municipal Officers and Employees

What Powers and Duties Give Rise to a Prohibited Interest?

Assuming there is a contract with a municipality and that a municipal officer or employee has an interest in that contract, the interest would not be prohibited unless the individual has certain duties with respect to the contract. With some exceptions (which will be discussed in the next sections), the municipal officer or employee must have at least one of three responsibilities — either individually or as a member of a governing board — to make their interest in a contract prohibited. These powers and duties, sometimes referred to as "Section 801 Powers and Duties" (after the section of Article 18 in which they are listed), are to:

  1. Negotiate, prepare, authorize, or approve the contract, or to authorize or approve payment under the contract, or
  2. Audit bills or claims under the contract, or
  3. Appoint an officer or employee who has any of the powers or duties set forth in "a" or "b" above.

The Comptroller’s Office has concluded that these powers and duties do not include certain ministerial functions (that is, functions not requiring the exercise of discretion in performing the task) For example, signing a duly authorized contract would not be a prohibited duty. The intent of the prohibition is to prevent a municipal officer or employee from being able to influence the municipal procurement and payment processes in both their public and private capacities.

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