118 N.J.L.J. 94
July 24, 1986
Conflict of Interest - Township
Solicitor Serving as Attorney for
County Welfare Board
(Overrules Opinion 568)
In our Opinion 568, 116 N.J.L.J. 244 (1985) we held that an attorney (not the County Attorney) may not represent a township as its solicitor and also represent the County Welfare Board. We said that the attorney must relinquish one of these posts.
The inquirer filed a Petition for Review with our Supreme Court stating that there was no conflict either actual or potential in his holding the two positions. Because of the paucity of the facts originally submitted, we requested additional information from the inquirer. It has now been furnished.
It appears that he is one of three attorneys representing the County Welfare Board in his county on a part-time basis. His duties consist of civil litigation to recover assistance of payments improperly made to clients, review of welfare fraud reports before submission to the county prosecutor and supplying advice in connection with fraud investigations. He does not have any dealings with any welfare assistance problems of any of the municipalities in the county.
At the municipal level, public assistance is rendered by the Local Assistance Board (N.J.S.A. 44:8-115, et seq.) appointed by the governing body of the municipality. At the county level, public assistance is administered by the County Welfare Board (or County Board of Social Services), the members of which are appointed by the Board of Chosen Freeholders of each county (N.J.S.A. 44:1-11). The County Welfare Board is an autonomous body and not a department of the county government.
Responsibilities of the Local Assistance Board and the County Welfare Board are different and separate. They are governed by different statutes and receive different funding. We are advised that funding for municipal welfare is provided by a contribution of 75% from the state and 25% from municipal funds. Funds for county welfare are supplied by a grant of 50% from the federal government, 37 1/2% by the state and 12 1/2% by the county.
As an example of a possible conflict in the positions held by the inquirer, we referred in Opinion 568 to the provisions of the statute relating to hospital rates for services furnished by the County to municipal welfare recipients (N.J.S.A. 44:8-104). That reference now appears not to be apposite since there can be no dispute between the municipality and the county as to rates, the latter being fixed by statute and, therefore, not subject to dispute. Further, even if there were any dispute, it would be between the municipality and the Board of Freeholders. The County Welfare Board would not be involved (N.J.S.A. 44:5-1 through 5-19).
On the basis of the additional information submitted and a reconsideration of the various statutes involved, we conclude that our former finding was incorrect and that the duties of the inquirer, as they are outlined in his request for advice, do not conflict and there is no ethical reason why he cannot continue to serve in both of his present positions.