As I noted in a previous post, the Minnesota Senate has created an internal procedure for members and staff to receive advisory opinions on potential conflicts of interest. This makes the decison by State Senator David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) to seek an advisory opinion from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board about his new job as executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) instead of working through the Minnesota Senate even more puzzling.
The Permanent Rules of the Minnesota Senate establishes that one of the major responsibilities of the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct is "to provide its advice on a potential conflict of interest" to members and staff.
In one of the first advisory opinions issued by the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct about potential conflicts of interest, the subcommittee "urged" members "to see advice from the subcommittee."
The subcommittee urges members and employees to make greater use of the resources available to them as they attempt to assure that their conduct meets the highest possible standard. Specifically, the subcommittee recommends that a member or employee facing an ethical question first seek advice from Senate Counsel. If counsel is unable to provide a definitive answer—or if the question is new and of potentially wide application—the questioner is urged to seek advice from the subcommittee. Indeed, Senate Counsel should not hesitate to refer questioners to the subcommittee in appropriate situations.
The question remains to be answered as to why Tomassoni decided to seek an advisory opinion from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and not the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct. I'll have a follow-up post with additional analysis on this subject tomorrow, so please check back.