April 7, 2016
The state Senate voted Thursday to expand a law that requires public officials to disclose when they have a conflict of interest and to recuse themselves from voting on a government contract involving a relative.
The law currently identifies a conflict of interest as a situation in which a public official votes on a contract involving a spouse.
The bill by Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) expands the list of family members that triggers a conflict to include the adult children, siblings and parents of officials. The measure, which next goes to the Assembly, also covers the spouse of a child, sibling or parent.
“Elected and government officials should abstain from voting when a family member has a financial interest or may benefit from the outcome of a public contract decision under the jurisdiction of that official,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said he was motivated to change the law by an experience he had as a member of the Artesia City Council when he witnessed another council member vote to approve a contract for a firm owned by that member’s father.
Mendoza said that when he asked Artesia’s city attorney about the vote, he was told there was no legal issue with the situation because the council member had no direct financial relationship with the winning bidder.