The staff of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board published a draft advisory opinion requested by State Senator David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) about whether his new position as Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) created a conflict for Tomassoni.
According to the draft advisory opinion, which was prepared by staff and not the appointed board of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, Tomassoni's new position does not present a conflict of interest with his service in the Minnesota Senate.
The draft advisory opinion has not been approved by the membership of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. The draft advisory opinion released today by staff is scheduled to be approved at a meeting of the board on February 3.
As I wrote in a previous post, the Minnesota Senate has a created an internal process for members and staff to seek guidance on potential conflicts of interest. Tomassoni decided to sidestep seeking guidance from the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct and instead decided to seek an advisory opinion from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
Aaron Brown, who has a blog with the Star Tribune and also at Minnesota Brown, was highly critical of the draft advisory opinion issued by board staff and also of Tomassoni not requesting the guidance of the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct.
In so many words, if approved, the Campaign Finance Board would not declare Tomassoni becoming head of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools — this swirling eddy of controversy and outrage — as a conflict of interest.
Apparently, taking a job that would lead to untold thousands of individual conflicts of interests is not, in itself, a conflict of interest.
While the draft advisory opinion has not been formally adopted by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, most draft advisory opinions are ultimately approved. The meeting of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board where this advisory opinion will be approved will be public, as required by Minnesota's Open Meeting Law.
But since the draft advisory opinion which determined that a conflict of interest did not exist for Tomassoni was produced by staff, any meetings or discussions by the staff about this draft advisory opinion are not required to be made public.
The process by which the draft advisory opinion was produced and the opinion of board staff that a conflict of interest does not exist for Tomassoni will do little to alleviate the concerns surrounding this controversy. I'll have more analysis tomorrow on the draft advisory opinion released by staff of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and the issues that could present additional difficulties for Tomassoni.
Picture source: Minnesota Senate