CEO 75-171 -- August 26, 1975
CONFLICT OF EMPLOYMENT
ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY CONSULTING WITH FIRM BIDDING ON CONTRACT WITH STATE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Jeff Trammel
Section 112.311(1), F. S. (1974 Supp.), provides that "[i]t is essential to the proper conduct and operation of government that public officials be independent and impartial . . . ." Where an assistant state attorney is authorized to prepare bid requests for an office study project, other business dealings with potential bidders for the project pose a threat to the impartiality of the bidding procedure inasmuch as one who prepares bids is in a position to manipulate specifications therein. Additionally, the appearance of impropriety is manifest in such situations.
Section 112.313(7), F. S., as amended by Ch. 75-208, Laws of Florida, the amended standards of conduct provisions which take effect on October 1, specifically provides that no public officer or employee shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity which is doing business with his agency.
Under both the current and the revised statutes, the situation described above is deemed to be a prohibited conflict of interest.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where I, as assistant state attorney, do consulting work with a firm which is bidding for and may be awarded a contract with the office of the State Attorney?
This question is answered in the affirmative.
As assistant state attorney, you have prepared requests for bids in the process of selecting a consulting firm to do a management study of the office of the State Attorney. You will play no role at all in the evaluation of these bids. The consulting firm of PRC Public Management Service Corp., which is bidding for the management study contract with the office of the State Attorney, has contracted with LEAA and the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice to perform a number of functions assisting the National Institute with its work. You desire to do part-time consulting with the firm relative to its contract with the National Institute.
The conflict of interest question you wish resolved falls within the scope of s. 112.311(1), F. S. (1974 Supp.). That subsection states in part: "It is essential to the proper conduct and operation of government that public officials be independent and impartial . . . ."
It is our considered opinion that one who is authorized to prepare bid requests is in a position to manipulate specifications in such a way that some vendors would automatically be unable to compete while others perhaps would be particularly suited to offer a favorable bid. Having other business dealings with potential bidders, such as holding a consulting contract, would provide you with a motive for improper manipulation and therefore poses a threat to your impartiality in the bidding procedure. We consider the policy expressed in s. 112.311(1), supra, in itself to control the present question. However, the appearance of impropriety also persuades us that you should not be consulting with the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice while performing your current duties as an assistant state attorney.
We would like to point out, in addition, that the 1975 Legislature substantially amended the standards of conduct provisions of the Code of Ethics. Section 112.313(7) of the new law, which takes effect on October 1 of this year, provides in part:
No public officer or employee of an agency shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity . . . which is . . . doing business with an agency of which he is an officer or employee . . . . (Emphasis supplied.)
Therefore, should PRC Public Management Service Corp. be awarded the management study contract with the State Attorney's office, the revised edition of s. 112.313 would prohibit you from contracting for consulting work with that firm after October 1, 1975.