Conflicts of Interest

Guiding Principles

  • Decisions by city officials, employees, and agencies should be based solely on what best serves the public’s interest.
  • The ethics law is aimed at the perception, as well as the reality, that a public official’s personal interests may influence a decision.
  • Having a conflict of interest does not mean that an official has done something wrong; it means that the individual has a financial or personal interest that disqualifies him or her from participating in a matter.

What is a Conflict of Interest

Officials or employees have a conflict of interest when they, their employer, or their immediate family have a financial or personal interest in a contract, proposed legislation, or a decision that is pending before them or their agency.

A financial interest is any interest that yields a direct or indirect monetary or other material benefit to the official or employee, an employer, or an immediate family member
A personal interest is "any interest arising from relationships with immediate family or from business, partnership or corporate associations, whether or not any financial interest is involved"

How to Address Conflicts

Pending legislation. City council members who have a financial or personal interest in pending legislation should decline to participate in the discussion or vote on the matter and then file an online conflicts disclosure form.
Pending matter. Employees or board members who have a financial or personal interest in a matter pending before them or their agency should immediately remove themselves from the decision-making process, and, when required, file an online conflicts disclosure form.

Procedure for Disclosure

  • Prior to any decision, verbally disclose the conflict at the meeting.
  • Have the disclosure placed in the minutes of the meeting or the agency's official records.
  • Complete an online Conflicts of Interest Disclosure Report in the Electronic Disclosure System.

How Departments Handle Conflicts

Most employees' conflicts are handled informally within the department, and the department removes the employee from the situation or transfers the matter to another employee.

Example: The planning department learns that a permit expediter has hired the adult daughter of the employee who gives final approval to permit applications. The department moves the employee to a new position where she will have no role in approving permits submitted by her daughter.

Example: The son of a human resources specialist applies for a position in the department. The specialist is removed from the hiring process.

General Guidelines

These guidelines provide only general guidance about when a conflict of interest disqualifies an official or employee from voting on legislation or participating in a matter. City officials or employees should contact the Ethics Office for advice on how to handle specific conflicts of interest.

Code of Ethics

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Atlanta, GA 30303