CEO 75-181 -- September 4, 1975
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TO COUNCILMAN'S REELECTION CAMPAIGN
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 a gift or favor which "would cause a reasonably prudent person to be influenced in the discharge of official duties." Campaign contributions, a special class of gifts permitted and regulated by law, are not deemed to be prohibited by the above section unless such donations were made with the understanding that official conduct would be influenced thereby. Nor is a voting conflict created where an official is faced with a vote relating to a campaign contributor, for such contributions have been disclosed and are a matter of public record pursuant to s. 106.07, F. S. (1974 Supp.).
1. Would I, as a member of the ____ City Council, violate the provisions of the Code of Ethics by accepting a contribution to my reelection campaign from a union which contracts with the City of ____?
2. Must I, as a member of the ____ City Council, abstain from voting on matters which relate to a labor union which was a major contributor to my campaign for reelection?
Question 1 is answered in the negative.
The standards of conduct established by the Code of Ethics apply to public officers and employees of agencies. Although you will be an incumbent at the time you receive the anticipated campaign contribution, you will be accepting it for the limited purpose of reelection to the City Council of ____.
We should like to call to your attention the provisions of the Code of Ethics which prevent a public officer from accepting a gift or favor which "would cause a reasonably prudent person to be influenced in the discharge of official duties." Section 112.313(1), F. S. (1974 Supp.). Campaign contributions are a special class of gifts permitted elsewhere by law, but limited in amount. Generally, we do not believe the Legislature intended a campaign donation which falls within the prescribed dollar limits to be violative of the Code of Ethics. We can envision instances in which they would, however, such as a case in which the gift was given based upon an agreement or understanding that official conduct would be influenced thereby. Assuming there to be no such understanding in the instant case, we find no violation of the Code of Ethics where you receive an otherwise legal contribution from a labor union doing business with the City of ____.
Question 2 is answered in the negative.
The Code of Ethics states in relevant part:
No public officer shall be prohibited from voting on any matter in his official capacity. However, when the matter being considered directly or indirectly inures to the public officer's particular private gain, as opposed to his private gain as a member of a special class or creates a conflict between such officer's private interest and his public duties he may abstain from voting on the matter and shall file a statement explaining the conflict with the appropriate officials. [Section 112.3141, F. S. (1974 Supp.).]
This section is quite explicit in stating that a public officer is never prohibited from voting on any matter in his official capacity. The question then turns on whether the situation constitutes a conflict of interest which would require that you file a statement explaining the conflict.
Your letter of inquiry advises us that the labor union was the only contributor to your campaign for reelection excepting your wife and yourself. We are of the view that a voting conflict does not exist when one votes on matters concerning his campaign contributors. In accordance with s. 106.07, F. S. (1974 Supp.), your campaign treasurer has the duty to report all contributions and by whom they were made. These reports are open to public inspection and in our opinion obviate the need for an additional disclosure under provisions of s. 112.3141, supra. If a matter on which you must vote in your official capacity not only pertains to the Labor Union in question, but in addition would inure to your particular private gain, however, a disclosure on CE Form 4 would be required.