OPINION NUMBER - 050

ADOPTED - 1982/08/27

SUBJECT - Conflicts of Interest; Prohibited gifts.

REQUESTED BY: Fred Sebesta, Waste Management Supervisor, Permits and Enforcement Section, Department of Environmental Control, Box 94877, Statehouse Station, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509

QUESTION: May members of the local chapter of a professional association pay or reimburse the travel expenses of another member, who is an employee of the executive branch of state government, to attend meetings of the parent organization's board of directors?

CONCLUSION

Yes.

FACTS

The person requesting the advisory opinion is an environmental engineer with the Department of Environmental Control, responsible for licensing new landfills, approval of wastewater treatment sludge land application projects and technical assistance with waste management problems of all types.

He is also a member of the Iowa-Nebraska Chapter of the Governmental Refuse Collection and Disposal Association, a non-profit professional organization, and has been selected as its representative on the board of directors of its parent organization. The local chapter may have financial difficulty paying the travel expenses for his attendance at the board meetings of the parent organization. It has been suggested that the local chapter ask its corporate members to contribute in order to cover those expenses. The money contributed would be deposited in the chapter treasury with other chapter funds and the person in question would be reimbursed for his actual expenses.

It happens that some of these companies are, or may in the future, have a facility regulated by the Department of Environmental Control or have acted or may act as an agent for someone the Department does regulate. The person requesting the advisory opinion has in the past, and may in the future, have direct involvement in such regulation, and it may well be that chapter corporate members could, although not at this time, hold landfill licenses.

As of this time, none of the corporate members have registered lobbyists.

ANALYSIS

Such expenses may be paid either directly or indirectly by any corporation or person, member or non-member, who is not a principal, lobbyist, or acting on behalf of either, provided that such payment is not to influence, or conditioned upon, a governmental action being taken by the public employee. See Section 49-14,101.

Such expenses may even be paid by a principal or a lobbyist if such principal or lobbyist is a member of the local chapter. In such a case, the travel of the public employee to the parent board meeting would be viewed as consideration for the benefit of the local chapter. See Section 49-1490, R. S. Supp., 1982.