CEO 75-180 -- August 26, 1975
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
STATE OFFICER ACCEPTING HONORARY COUNTRY CLUB MEMBERSHIP
To: (Name Withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Gene Rhodes
Section 112.313(1), F. S. (1974 Supp.), prohibits a public officer from accepting any gift, favor, or service which would cause a reasonably prudent person to be influenced in the discharge of official duties. Therefore, no conflict per se exists in a state officer's accepting an honorary country club membership inasmuch as there is no apparent relationship between the country club and the state office held. Should the petitioner feel the existence of influence, however, he would be obligated to refuse the honorary membership. Moreover, s. 112.3145(3)(d), F. S., as created by Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida, which will take effect on January 1, 1976, requires that a public officer disclose any gift or gifts received from one source, the total of which exceeds $100 in value during the disclosure period.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created if I, as ____ of the State University System of Florida, were to accept an honorary membership in the Killearn Golf and Country Club of Tallahassee?
Your question is answered in the negative.
The letter to you from Killearn Properties, Inc., dated June 25, 1975 offering an honorary country club membership, states in relevant part:
Over the years, J. T. Williams, Killearn's President, and I [Mallory Horne] have extended honorary Country Club memberships to those whose position requires some entertainment. You and your family can enjoy the fine cuisine in a beautiful setting, play golf, tennis or handball, and swim in our olympic pool. Spacious rooms are available for visiting friends.
We waive the initiation fee and monthly dues, and provide monthly billing to accommodate charges made there.
The Code of Ethics provides 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. (1974 Supp.).]
An honorary country club membership is not a prohibited gift per se. The lack of any foreseeable connection between the country club and your duties as ____ of the State University System makes it unlikely that you would be influenced in the discharge of your duties. Based upon the situation as set forth in your letter of inquiry, we perceive no conflict. Should you, as a reasonably prudent person, feel that such influence exists now or in the future, however, you would be obligated to refuse the honorary membership.
A recent revision in the Code of Ethics which will take effect January 1, 1976, will require you to disclose your honorary membership in the country club. In relevant part the revision requires that a public officer or employee disclose:
A list of all persons, business entities or other organizations, and the address and a description of the principal business activity of each, from whom he received a gift or gifts from one source, the total of which exceeds $100 in value during the disclosure period. The person reporting shall list such benefactors in descending order of value with the largest listed first. Gifts received from a parent, grandparent, sibling, child or spouse of the person reporting, or from a spouse of any of the foregoing, and gifts received by bequest or devise, or campaign contributions which were reported as required by law, or gifts disclosed pursuant to s. 111.011, need not be listed. For purposes of this paragraph a debt on which a preferential rate of interest substantially below the rate charged under the then customary and usual circumstances is charged shall be deemed a gift of an amount equal to the difference between the preferential and customary rate charged on the debt. [Section 112.3145(3)(d), Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida.]
Thus, while the honorary country club membership you have been offered would not violate the Code of Ethics, it must be disclosed as a gift pursuant to the revised financial disclosure law.