Professor Dessem: Public Officials Should Avoid Appearance of Conflict of Interest

In a recent St. Louis Public Radio story, “Slay’s role as lobbyist raises questions over conflict of interest in quest to privatize airport,” Professor Larry Dessem commented about an attorney’s need to avoid conflicts of interest.

The article is about former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay being a registered lobbyist for Ferrovial Airports, a Madrid-based airport management company that is one of the companies bidding on a leasing contract to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Slay, who is an attorney in private practice, left the mayor’s office in April 2017 and registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission as a lobbyist in June 2018. While he was still in office, Slay initiated the process of possibly privatizing the airport.

Professor Dessem expressed concern about the appearance of a conflict of interest, “Actual conflicts are hard to prove because some of those facts may be confidential. So we look at appearances of impropriety or appearances of problems. And that’s why, in fact, we have statutes such as Missouri has saying if a reasonable person might have a concern then let’s have the public official hold back and not get too close to the line.”