CEO 75-176A -- March 16, 1976
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SCHOOL PRINCIPAL SELLING GOODS TO SCHOOLS AND TO SCHOOL BOARD
To: Randall N. Thornton, Wildwood
Prepared by: Gene Rhodes
CEO 75-176 is reconsidered in regard to a public employee's sales of goods to public schools. While a middle school principal may not sell athletic equipment and supplies to the county School Board, there is no impropriety in selling such athletic equipment and supplies to individual schools within the same county school system during his nonduty hours.
This is in response to your request for reconsideration of CEO 75-176, which was issued to you by the Commission on Ethics on August 26, 1975. In that opinion we advised you that Mr. Rudy Baxter, a Sumter County middle school principal, would be prohibited from selling athletic equipment and supplies either to the Sumter County School Board or to the individual Sumter County schools after October 1, 1975, pursuant to s. 112.313(3), F. S. In light of a subsequent opinion issued by this commission, CEO 76-2, we have decided to reconsider CEO 75-176.
While a strict reading of s. 112.313(3) prohibits an employee of a political subdivision from selling goods to that political subdivision or any agency thereof, we must read this prohibition in light of another provision of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees which states:
CONSTRUCTION. -- It is not the intent of this part, nor shall it be construed, to prevent any officer or employee of a state agency or county, city or other political subdivision of the state or any legislator or legislative employee from accepting other employment or following any pursuit which does not interfere with the full and faithful discharge by such officer, employee, legislator, or legislative employee of his duties to the state or the county, city, or other political subdivision of the state involved. [Section 112.316, F. S.]
The above-quoted provision makes it clear that the Code of Ethics shall not be construed to prohibit a public officer from accepting employment which does not interfere with the full and faithful discharge of his duties. As a school principal, Mr. Baxter is in a position to give advice and recommendations to the School Board on goods to be purchased for his school and to otherwise influence the selection of goods and vendors. To engage in private business transactions with the School Board or his own school would subject Mr. Baxter to a conflict of interest as that term is used in s. 112.313(7), F. S., and as defined by s. 112.312(6), F. S.
We reach a different result, however, where Mr. Baxter is selling directly to schools other than the one in which he is serving. As a school principal, Mr. Baxter is not in a position either to supervise or regulate the individual schools other than his own to which he proposes to sell. Nor do his public duties involve approval or the giving of advice or recommendations as to the purchase of goods by these individual schools. This being the case, we find no prohibition against Mr. Baxter selling goods to other Sumter County schools during nonduty hours.
CEO 75-176 is modified accordingly.