CEO 75-70 -- March 31, 1975
STANDARDS OF CONDUCT
PROPRIETY OF SCHOOL PRINCIPAL'S CORPORATION SELLING MERCHANDISE TO HIS OWN SCHOOL OR OTHER SCHOOLS WITHIN THE COUNTY
To: Randall N. Thornton, Attorney, Wildwood
Prepared by: Patricia Butler
A Sumter County school principal and potential partner in a corporation to engage in the sale of athletic equipment and supplies may transact business with schools within the county so long as such business is contracted in accordance with competitive bid procedures as prescribed in s. 112.312(2), F. S. (1974 Supp.). The county school system is the "agency" of which the principal is an employee; therefore, bid procedures must be followed for any transaction with any county school. Consideration should be given, however, to ss. 839.07 and 839.10, criminal statutes lying outside the advisory jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission, which may have bearing on such transactions.
May my client, Mr. Rudy Baxter, as a school principal in Sumter County and a potential partner in a corporation to engage in the sale of athletic equipment and supplies, become involved in such corporation if the county school board or an individual school, including the one of which Mr. Baxter is principal, purchases equipment or supplies from the corporation?
The applicable section of the disclosure law states:
No public officer or employee of an agency shall own a material interest in any business entity doing business with the agency of which he is an officer or employee, except in those cases when the business is contracted with full public competition and award is made to the lowest or best bidder . . . . [Section 112.313(2), F. S., as amended by Ch. 74- 177, Laws of Florida; emphasis supplied.]
Mr. Baxter is therefore permitted to transact business with his agency so long as these bidding procedures are followed.
In a previous opinion of this commission, CEO 74-52, we interpreted the term "agency," s. 112.313(1), F. S., to apply to each named body (a department, division, bureau, etc.) at each level of government. It is our opinion that, at the county level, the school system, headed by the school board, constitutes an "agency." Therefore, competitive bid procedures must be followed in any dealings Mr. Baxter's potential corporation would have with any public school within Sumter County.
As a partner in a business entity which is doing business with an agency of which he is an officer, Mr. Baxter is further required, by s. 112.313(3), to file CE Form 3, Disclosure of Specified Interests, a copy of which is enclosed.
Although the recently revised Code of Ethics permits business transactions between a public officer or employee and his own agency so long as his business interests are a matter of public record and competitive bidding procedures are followed, it should be noted that certain statutes exist carrying criminal penalties which prohibit public officers from bidding on public works. These statutes, ss. 839.07 and 839.10, F. S., are not within the purview of the Ethics Commission's advisory jurisdiction; nor is it clear what effect the newly revised code has on these earlier statutes.
We have requested an opinion from the Attorney General as to the effect of Ch. 74-177 on these criminal statutes. In the meantime, it seems clear from reading s. 112.313(2) that the Legislature's intent was to allow public officers and employees to do business with their agencies under competitive bid procedures designed to strictly guard against self-dealing. When the Attorney General's opinion becomes available, we will forward a copy to you.