Conflict Of Interest is a real possibility at the Cochise County
Planning & Zoning Commission. Here is Section 3 of the
November 26, 2013, issue of the CCIPRA newsletter.
3, Conflict of interest at the P&Z Commission?
The Weisslers' conduct at the November 13
Commission meeting was odd in another way: Liza
is chair of the Commission, and her husband
Robert is apparently employed by the Friends Of
the San Pedro, an organization which promotes
expanding the Sierra Vista water rules into the
country. I'd never seen a member's spouse speak
at a Commission meeting at all.
The basic state laws about conflict of interest
are ARS 38-501 through -511 -- see them via
-- and ARS 38-503(B) says a "public officer ...
who has, or whose relative has, a substantial
interest in any decision of a public agency
shall make known such interest in the official
records of such public agency and shall refrain
from participating in any manner as an officer
... in such decision."
Until Saturday, the only relevant info I had was
an old Friends Of the San Pedro River report
(thanks to a friend for providing it!) saying
Robert was unpaid. But then I got an email
saying that at an Upper San Pedro Partnership
meeting, Supervisor Pat Call asked Robert
Weissler "if he is now getting paid and he said
he was. The Taxes of the Friends are not going
to reflect that until their next filing." For
purposes of argument, this discussion assumes
that the report is accurate.
There's no doubt that Liza is a public officer
under ARS 38-502(8), Robert is her relative
under ARS 38-502(9), and they both participated
in the discussion on November 13. So one
question remains: did Robert have a substantial
interest in expanding Sierra Vista's water rules?
A substantial interest is, under ARS 38-502(11),
"any pecuniary ... interest, either direct or
indirect, other than a remote interest."
"Remote interest" includes, under ARS
38-502(10)(i), the interest "of a relative of a
public officer," except that the interest isn't
remote if a Commission decision "would confer a
direct economic benefit or detriment upon the
So now we have to define "direct economic
benefit or detriment." Let's start in Chapter
8, "Conflict Of Interest," in our Attorney
General's Agency Handbook, at
Section 8.3 says the "Legislature has determined
that certain economic interests are so remote
that they do not impermissibly influence a
person's decisions or actions.... Unless the
interest at issue [is] remote, the interest is
substantial and creates a conflict of interest."
Section 8.4.2 says "If the ... relative is a
non-salaried officer of a nonprofit corporation,
he or she has a remote interest in any decision
affecting that corporation." Now, it's a basic
legal doctrine that when items ON a list are
included in a statute, items NOT on the list are
excluded (in law school Latin, "expressio unius
est exclusio alterius"). So if a NON-paid
officer's interest is remote, a PAID officer's
But tiny facts matter. For example, Section 8.3
cites a case which is online at
Some quotes from it show the analysis required:
. "The prohibition against participation in a
decision of an administrative board by a member
having a 'substantial interest' in the decision
is clearly for the purpose of preventing a board
member from placing himself in a position
whereby he would have a possible conflict of
. "... the legislature deemed it necessary to
give the term 'substantial interest' a broad
encompassing definition.... We do not believe
however, that the legislature intended that the
word 'interest' for purposes of disqualification
was to include a mere abstract interest in the
general subject or a mere possible contingent
interest. Rather, the term refers to a
pecuniary or proprietary interest, by which a
person will gain or lose something as contrasted
to general sympathy, feeling or bias...."
Instead of dancing on hypothetical pins, let me
conclude that there are enough facts for an
investigation to be prudent and welcome.