By Saffeya Ahmed
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — Local governments that rely on commonwealth’s attorneys for legal advice can breathe a sigh of relief: State legislators have discarded a provision that would have prevented commonwealth’s attorneys from serving as county, city or town government attorneys.
The Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved two bills that require training for local elected officials. Both bills originally included clauses that would restrict the commonwealth’s attorney position, but the clauses were removed before the Senate passed the legislation.
Virginia enforces a law called the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act, which prohibits conflicts and requires economic interests be disclosed for public officers and employees. Conflicts of interest can result when a person:
Accepts money, gifts, or services outside of their compensation that influences their official duties
Has a relative or spouse with a financial interest in a situation
Uses confidential information for economic benefits
Under SB 1430, conflicts and ethics training would be required for all government officials, at least once every two years.
SB 1431 would implement a similar training for government officials regarding the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which mandates Virginia citizens and members of the press have access to all public records of employees, officials and organizations.