The Law of the Land Blog
has recently summarized a number of
California decisions regarding proximity, a conflict of interest
issue that, for some reason, seems to come up primarily in
California, due in large part, I suppose, to its 500-foot rule.
subsection of my book Local Government Ethics Programs
on proximity (in the Indefinite Benefits section), I oppose
numbers such as 500 feet. My argument is that "what is important here is not the actual
concrete benefit or harm, but rather how the official’s presumed
expectation of benefit or harm is perceived by the public, based on
the only concrete thing the public has to go on: the position the
official takes on the project. If an official supports a development
near her business, it is assumed that she expects to benefit from
it. If she opposes the development, it is assumed that she expects
it to harm her business. Since the official is presumed to know best
(even if she turns out to be wrong), the assumption is that she is
putting her interests ahead of the public interest."
Below are four valuable advisory opinions by the state's ethics commission, the Fair Political Practices Commission ("FPPC"), which has jurisdiction over local officials.