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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 3 - Case Studies on Conflicts of Interest

Discussion of Situation 7

A village trustee owns a food service business. Proposed zoning changes will broaden the rights of similar vendors and could negatively affect the business owned by the trustee.

Does the village trustee have a prohibited interest in a contract? Why or why not? Are there any other issues with which the village should be concerned?

The Comptroller’s Office has concluded that land use actions, such as zoning changes, are not “contracts” within the meaning of Article 18. Because there is no contract, the village trustee does not have a prohibited interest in a contract with the village.

Other Issues to Consider:

The village’s code of ethics should be reviewed for any pertinent provisions, such as a provision requiring disclosure, or a provision requiring the trustee to recuse himself or abstain from voting on the zoning change. If the village’s code of ethics lacks such provisions, to avoid even an appearance of impropriety, the trustee should publicly disclose the underlying factual circumstances. In addition, if the negative impact of the zoning change on trustee’s business is not merely speculative and is not trivial, the trustee should not participate in the discussion and voting on the zoning change.

  Next: Situation 8