Conflict of interest, it's a simple concept. Before we move on, let's be clear about what the term means, from Wikipedia...
A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other.
Easy enough, right? The definition goes on to state...
A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.
This bit is also very important...
...a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs.
With that said, let's turn for a moment to our beloved State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, arguably one of the most powerful and best liked people in our county. Considering how long Ms. Rundle has been at the head of the state attorneys office, one can only imagine how many people close friends she must have and how many people she's done business with. It's safe to assume that at some point or another a situation arises where a friend or business partner unfortunately becomes the victim of a crime that her office ultimately will prosecute. Now, I can't say with any certainty if there's an instance where that friend or business associate picks up the phone and tells Ms. Rundle personally about what's happened to them but can you imagine being the poor alleged criminal if that call was made? YIKES! I don't even want to think how that would play out.
Indulge me for a moment, say that "friend" did make a call to Ms. Rundle and told her about the alleged wrong that had been done to them, would it be possible for Ms. Rundle to get personally involved in the case, perhaps maybe even taking the rookie line prosecutor that was handling the case off and reassigning a veteran prosecutor to make sure the case went down the way she wanted? Although it's simply conjecture, it is certainly plausible.
Another instance of a possible conflict of interest for Ms. Rundle would be if one of her friends or business associates was accused of some sort of wrong doing. A most recent example of just such a case was when there was an investigation into the Absentee Ballot Broker scandal, Ms. Rundle explained it best in her press release...
Now that the arrest of Deisy Penton De Cabrera has been accomplished and she is facing a felony and two misdemeanor charges related to absentee ballot fraud, I have today asked the Governor’s office for an Executive Assignment of this case to another prosecutor’s office.
Unsubstantiated allegations have recently been brought to my attention that a person who has been assisting in my campaign was alleged to have been seen in the company of this defendant. I am therefore taking this action to avoid even the possibility that my pending election will cause any distraction to the prosecution of this case. I am also doing this with the intent of toning down the rhetoric so that this case can progress in a normal and expeditious manner for the benefit of our community.
While I don't know about the "unsubstantiated allegations" part, we know that Ms. Rundle employed a consultant named Al Lorenzo who some were alleging had links to the ballot broker that was arrested son in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, Ms. Rundle recused herself from the case. Any reasonable person would agree that this was the right thing to do.
So, where am I going with all this? The astute among you already know exactly what I'm talking about and exactly who has a conflict of interest in several of the cases that we've been writing about. I'm off today to confirm that these conflicts do exist and I'll report back tomorrow.