Conflicts of Interest

Barely a week goes by where someone working for the city gets jammed up with a conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest  is where your city’s “public duties” may conflict with your private interests. Some conflicts are pretty obvious , where others are more subtle and may not appear as conflicts. Others may appear to be small and might be thought of as a non-issue, but really should be of concern.

The NYC Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) enforces the code of conduct expected of city employees as defined through Chapter 68 of the City Charter.

Some of the more obvious ones are using city property to run a business or to do it when you’re on duty. The more subtle ones are receiving tips from the public or gifts from vendors or contractors that are doing business with the city or your agency. Even the COIB itself gets scrutinized for possible conflicts.

If you work for the city it’s best that you don’t accept anything from any vendor, customer, or contractor that works for or with the city – even of a nominal value (i.e.: pizza, doughnuts, cookies). It is very easy to have something appear as a conflict and difficult and time consuming to try and defend yourself. Is it worth the potential problems and even risk a fine, loss of time, or even your job for accepting a free lunch?

If you’re a boss, you shouldn’t accept anything from your subordinates. You shouldn’t even accept rides to work. When a certain member of my team reports to one of our other locations to work he has to pass near my house. He always kindly offers to pick me up and I always kindly refuse. The idea being that if he picks me up once, he may feel obligated to always have to do it. Or even just the way it may appear to others; that he is trying to influence me on something. Or that other team members may feel obligated that they, too, have to perform this or a similar service, to remain in good standing with me. There are many ways this innocent ride in can be viewed.

There are many, many other situations that are too numerous to discuss here. The COIB website has a lot of information on this. If you have questions, there is an “Attorney of the Day” that is on duty and can give you confidential advice on any particular situation where you think there might be a conflict. I contacted them when I worked a second job years ago to make sure there was no conflict and several more times over the years just to verify certain situations were not posing a conflict. I assure you, as you move up the ranks, not everyone is your friend and some would enjoy seeing you take a hit. It is very important to maintain your integrity and appearance.

To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. - Douglas Adams

With all that said, as long as you come in to work, do a fair days’ job, and watch out that any moonlighting or extra-curricular activities don’t conflict with your city job, may you live long and prosper .

.Questions and Comments welcomed here.