CEO 75-75 -- April 3, 1975
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY EMPLOYEE MAKES A GIFT TO THE AGENCY BY WHICH HE IS EMPLOYED
To: William F. Edwards, Citrus County Attorney, Inverness
Prepared by: Lawrence A. Gonzalez
The gift by a county road superintendent of several acres of sod for use along county road rights-of-way would not create a conflict of interest under s. 112.313(1), F. S. (1974 Supp.), assuming there to be no improper motive in the offering of the gift. The Code of Ethics prohibits the acceptance of gifts that would cause a reasonably prudent person to be influenced in the discharge of official duties, but the county commissioners, in accepting the sod, realize no private gain. Rather, the gift inures to the benefit of the citizens of the county.
Would a conflict of interest exist if Mr. Fred Downing, Citrus County Road Superintendent, and his wife were to donate several acres of sod to Citrus County for public use by the county road department?
Your question is answered in the negative if the doner receives no material benefit from the transaction.
As indicated in your letter of inquiry, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Downing are the owners of certain real property situated in Citrus County. The Citrus County Road Department is in need of several acres of sod for use along road rights-of-way and for other public purposes. The Downings have offered to allow the county, at its own expense, to enter upon their land and remove the sod therefrom. The Downings would receive no payment or compensation for this donation or other resulting benefits. However, public funds would be expended in the severance and transportation of the sod from the Downing's property. The county is expected to save several thousand dollars by this donation.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees states in pertinent part:
No officer or employee of a state agency, or of a county, city or other political subdivision of the state, or any legislator, or legislative employee shall accept any gift, favor, or service, of value to the recipient, that would cause a reasonably prudent person to be influenced in the discharge of official duties. [Section 112.313(1), F. S., as amended by Ch. 74-177, Laws of Florida.]
Assuming there will be no improper motive on the part of the Downings, the only potential conflict of interest which we can foresee under this provision would be on the part of the county commission in their acceptance of the sod as a gift. The controlling question thus becomes: Would such a gift cause a reasonably prudent person to be influenced in the discharge of official duties? If not, the gift is a permissible one.
In a previous opinion we stated that the term "influence" as used above must be read to mean the alteration of an official's independence and impartiality. CEO 75-21. In the present instance the county commission would be accepting the sod on behalf of the citizens of Citrus County who will be the real beneficiaries of the gift. Although the commission exercises control over Mr. Downing as a county employee and approves his salary, we do not consider that their receipt of this property would in any way alter their impartiality in performing such duties.
Accordingly, we find there to be no violation of the Code of Ethics.