OPINION NUMBER - 047

ADOPTED - 1982/04/23

SUBJECT - Conflicts of Interest

REQUESTED BY: Joseph M. Casson, Jefferson County Attorney

QUESTION: May a county attorney be an officer of a collection agency corporation, operated out of an office adjacent to and in the same building as his public office, and in which his wife is the sole stockholder?

CONCLUSION

Yes.

FACTS

The person requesting the advisory opinion is a county attorney. He plans to be an officer in a collection agency licensed in the State of Nebraska. The collection agency is a Nebraska corporation. His wife is its sole stockholder and is also a corporate officer. The collection agency is to be operated from the same office building as his county attorney and private law office, but is to be located in a separate office within that building.

ANALYSIS

The Accountability Act does not prohibit what might be termed an appearance of conflict. The association of the county attorney with such business, in and of itself, and under the circumstances described in the request for advisory opinion, is not a violation. It is not his relationship with the collection agency or its location that would be prohibited, but use of his public office for the benefit of the collection agency. See Section 49-14,101(3) and 49-14,101(4), R.R.S., 1943.

Nevertheless, such an association must be disclosed. Section 49-1496 and 49-1408. This is to be done in his annual Statement of Financial Interests. Section 49-1493. And, when, in the discharge of his official duties, he is faced with taking an action or making a decision that would provide a financial benefit or detriment to the collection agency, that must be disclosed by his filing a Statement of Potential Conflict. Section 49-1499, R.S.Supp., 1981.

This advisory opinion applies only to the provisions of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act and does not purport to interpret Section 23-1206, R.R.S., 1943, or other provisions of the Nebraska statutes pertaining to the powers and duties of county attorneys nor the Code of Professional Responsibility of the Nebraska State Bar Association.