CEO 13-18 - October 30, 2013
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
MEMBER OF FLORIDA REAL ESTATE APPRAISAL BOARD
SERVING AS OFFICER OF REAL ESTATE ORGANIZATION
To: Mr. Matthew Simmons (Fort Myers)
An appointed member of the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board would not be prohibited under Section 112.313(11), Florida Statutes, from serving as an officer of a private, non-profit organization which includes members who are employed in a variety of professions and occupations related to the business of real estate.
Would Section 112.313(11), Florida Statutes, prohibit your holding an office with the private, non-profit Real Estate Investment Society (REIS) while you also serve as an appointed member of the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board?
Your question is answered in the negative, under the circumstances presented.
By your letter of inquiry and additional information provided, you relate that you were appointed by the Governor to the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board and that you presently serve as Vice Chair of that Board, which administers and enforces the real estate appraiser license law. You state that you also are a member of a private, non-profit organization, the Real Estate Investment Society (REIS), which exists to enable individuals of various occupations and professions, including real estate appraisers, to interact with one another and to obtain information about real estate opportunities and development in the Southwest Florida region and also to provide educational opportunities in the form of scholarships for students pursuing real estate careers. You note only six or seven of the approximately 250 members of REIS are licensed real estate appraisers. You state that REIS does not advocate or lobby before government entities on behalf of real estate appraisers or any other occupation or profession.1 You explain that you would like to accept an opportunity to serve as an officer of REIS.
You ask whether your serving as an officer of REIS would violate the standard of conduct in Section 112.313(11), Florida Statutes, which states:
PROFESSIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING BOARD MEMBERS - No officer, director or administrator of a Florida state, county, or regional professional or occupational organization or association, while holding such position, shall be eligible to serve as a member of a state examining or licensing board for the profession or occupation.
This provision would prohibit you from serving as an officer of a Florida state, county, or regional professional or occupational association of real estate appraisers, while also serving on the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board, which is a licensing board for real estate appraisers. The question here is whether you also are prohibited from serving as an officer of a Florida regional organization whose members pursue various occupations and professions related to the business of real estate.
In CEO 90-61, we stated that Section 112.313(11) prohibits holding a high-level or administrative position in a professional organization while serving on a licensing board in order to ensure that licensing board members do not have potential conflicts of interest. We went on to opine that the intent of Section 112.313(11) is "to prohibit the conflict of interest which arises because the goals of a state licensing board and those of a private professional organization, while not always conflicting, necessarily will be at variance at some points. One body exists to protect the public, the other exists to protect the interests of its members." In a number of opinions, we have found that members of licensing boards would be in violation of Section 112.313(11), Florida Statutes, if they were to serve simultaneously as officers of professional or occupational organizations. CEO 81-30; CEO 80-92; CEO 79-15; CEO 78-9.
However, we also have concluded, in certain circumstances, that Section 112.313(11), Florida Statutes, would not prohibit members of licensing or regulatory boards from serving as officers of professional or occupational organizations. In CEO 80-92, we stated that if a member of the Construction Industry Licensing Board were to serve as a trustee of a plumbing industry promotion fund or as a member of a local construction trades qualifying board, the Licensing Board member would not be in violation of Section 112.313(11) because the relevant organizations were "not professional or occupational organizations within the contemplation of this statute."
Because you represent that REIS includes among its members non-licensed persons and persons licensed by state boards other than the licensing board on which you serve, we find that it is not a "professional or occupational" organization or association within the meaning of the statute as to you. We also find that since REIS does not advocate or lobby on behalf of its membership, the organization does not "exist to protect the interests of its members" before the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board or any other government entity, but rather exists in order to provide its diverse membership with information, including opportunities, concerning the real estate business in Southwest Florida. Therefore, REIS is not an occupational or professional organization within the contemplation of Section 112.313(11), Florida Statutes, and if you were to serve as an officer of REIS, you would not be serving as an officer, director, or administrator of a professional or occupational organization.
Your question is answered accordingly.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on October 25, 2013, and RENDERED this 30th day of October, 2013.
Morgan R. Bentley, Chairman
 The REIS website states that REIS represents the real estate investment profession "to the media and government in Florida" and "monitors legislative issues that are of interest to the real estate community." However, these statements do not affect our analysis. In discussions with our staff, you stated that REIS employs no lobbyists and does not advocate on behalf of its membership before the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board or any other government entity.