Watchdog: Labor board lawyer broke ethics rules
WASHINGTON (AP) — The top lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board violated federal ethics rules by helping investigate a case involving Wal-Mart Stores Inc. despite holding a financial interest in the company, the board's inspector general has found.
NLRB Inspector General David Berry issued a report Sept. 13 finding that general counsel Lafe Solomon took part in discussions about whether Wal-Mart's social media policy violated the law even though Solomon owned about $18,000 worth of Wal-Mart stock.
Federal rules prohibit government officials from participating "substantially" in cases if they own stock worth $15,000 or more and the matter affects the official's financial interest "in any measurable way."
The report was released late Friday by two GOP-led House committees, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Education and the Workforce Committee.
Solomon's attorney, William Taylor III, has denied the allegations. In a letter to the inspector general on Friday, Taylor said Solomon "did not commit even a technical violation of the applicable ethics rules."
President Barack Obama named Solomon acting general counsel of the board in June 2010.
The report said Solomon sought a waiver of the ethics rules on Jan. 30, but only after he attended an initial meeting about the Wal-Mart case a week earlier. The waiver was denied and Solomon later sold his shares in the company.
During the initial meeting, Solomon directed board staff to contact Wal-Mart in an effort to get the company to change its social media policy so the board would not have to issue a formal complaint, the report said. NLRB attorneys had concluded that Wal-Mart's policy restricting what workers could say on social media was overly restrictive.
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