CEO 04-2 -- January 27, 2004

 

VOTING CONFLICT

 

CITY COMMISSIONER VOTING ON MATTERS INVOLVING PRIVATE UNIVERSITY WHERE SPOUSE IS ADJUNCT FACULTY MEMBER

 

To:      Name withheld at person's request

 

SUMMARY:

 

No voting conflict is created where a city commissioner votes on matters involving a large private university located within the city where her husband teaches at the university as an adjunct faculty member.  Section 112.3143(3), Florida Statutes, prohibits voting on matters that inure to the special private gain or loss of a public officer or her relatives.  However, votes on matters involving the university are not expected to inure to the special private gain or loss of the city commissioner or her husband.

 

QUESTION:

 

Is a voting conflict of interest created where a city commissioner votes on matters involving a private university located within the city and where her husband teaches classes there as an adjunct faculty member?

 

            Your question is answered in the negative.

 

            In your letter of inquiry and through information provided to our staff, we are advised that you seek this opinion on behalf of Coral Gables City Commissioner, .  The Commissioner's husband has, in the past, taught courses on multimedia and computer modeling/animation at a large private university located within the city.  It is anticipated that he will teach courses there again this spring.  You question whether a voting conflict of interest is created where matters involving the university come before the City Commission.

 

            Section 112.3143(3), Florida Statutes, provides:

 

            No county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in an official capacity upon any measure which would inure to his or her special private gain or loss; which he or she knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of any principal by whom he or she is retained or to the parent organization or subsidiary of a corporate principal by which he or she is retained, other than an agency as defined in s. 112.312(2); or which he or she knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of a relative or business associate of the public officer. Such public officer shall, prior to the vote being taken, publicly state to the assembly the nature of the officer's interest in the matter from which he or she is abstaining from voting and, within 15 days after the vote occurs, disclose the nature of his or her interest as a public record in a memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting, who shall incorporate the memorandum in the minutes.

 

This statute prohibits a local public officer from voting in certain situations, including when the matter she is voting upon inures to her special private gain or loss, to the special private gain or loss of a principal by whom she is retained, or to the special private gain or loss of her relatives, including her husband.

 

            In CEO 83-49, we opined that a voting conflict of interest was not created where a city commissioner, whose husband was employed by a hospital, voted on matters involving the hospital.  In that opinion, the circumstances did not indicate that there would be any private gain to the commissioner's husband as opposed to the gain of the hospital.  Analogous circumstances are present here.  While the commissioner's husband has taught at the university as an adjunct faculty member, there is no indication that any matter involving the university that could come before the city commission would inure to his special private gain or loss.  Even though we concede that some may question whether a public officer can be completely independent and impartial when voting on a matter affecting her husband's employer, Section 112.3143 is directed towards personal, pecuniary interests, and her spouse's interests are not likely to be affected by any vote involving the university.

 

            Accordingly, no voting conflict is created where a city commissioner votes on matters involving a large private university where her husband teaches as an adjunct faculty member.

 

            ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on January 22, 2004 and RENDERED this 27th day of  January, 2004.

 

 

 

________________________

Richard L. Spears, Chairman