CEO 75-24 -- February 14, 1975
VOTING CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SCHOOL BOARD DOING BUSINESS WITH ENTITY BY WHICH A MEMBER OF BOARD IS EMPLOYED
To: Win Dermody, Pinellas County School Board, Clearwater
Prepared by: Gene L. "Hal" Johnson
Section 112.314(2), F. S., as amended by Ch. 74-177, Laws of Florida, requires disclosure of voting conflict of interest when the matter being considered inures to the public officer's particular private gain, as opposed to his private gain as a member of a special class. Mr. Dermody, as a member of the Pinellas County School Board, may be asked to approve purchases not made on a competitive bid basis by the board from an entity which employs Mr. Dermody. In this instance, Mr. Dermody is not a member of a special class, since a business concern has employees of divergent interests. He therefore comes within the purview of s. 112.314(2), supra Mr. Dermody is required to file a disclosure statement should such a situation of conflict arise.
In my capacity as a member of the Pinellas County School Board, I may be required to approve business transactions between the school district and a business by which I am employed: Does this create a voting conflict of interest requiring disclosure?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In the past the Pinellas County School Board, of which you are a member, has been asked to approve purchases amounting to less than $100 from the company by which you are employed. As you state in your letter, school board procedures do not call for competitive bidding when such small financial amounts are involved.
Anticipating that you, in your official capacity, may be asked to approve such a transaction at some time in the future, you inquire as to whether the voting conflict of interest law, s. 112.314(2), F. S., as amended by Ch. 74-177, Laws of Florida, requires that you disclose this as a possible conflict.
Section 112.314(2), F. S., requires disclosure when the "matter being considered directly or indirectly inures to the public officer's particular private gain, as opposed to his private gain as a member of a special class." (Emphasis supplied.) This requirement is imposed on the public official without regard to the amount of private gain.
While it may be argued that your private involvement is only "as a member of a special class" (the body of employees of the business entity), it is seriously questioned that such a construction is consistent with the intent and purpose of the law. To come within this exemption, a special class should be a group, all of whom are similarly situated. A group of employees of a business entity may embrace a wide variety of divergent interests. One may be a bookkeeper, but another may be a salesman working on a commission basis who would stand to gain very directly and materially from a sale to the public board of which he is a member.
Therefore, it is our opinion that s. 112.314(2), F. S., does require disclosure if such a situation should arise.