CEO 76-2A -- March 16, 1976
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY ENGINEER ENGAGED PRIVATELY AS AN ENGINEER
To: T. Richard Hagin, Sumter County Attorney, Bushnell
Prepared by: Gene Rhodes
A conflict of interest is created where a county engineer and member of a county subdivision advisory committee is engaged privately in drawing plans he must later approve in his public capacity.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where a county engineer and member of the county subdivision advisory committee is engaged in privately drawing the same kinds of plans as he also approves?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
You have advised us that, as a member of the county subdivision advisory committee and as county engineer, the subject person must approve all subdivision plats, roads, and drainage; however, when the county engineer's firm presents either engineering plans or a final plat to the subdivision advisory committee, he has abstained from voting and requests that the committee consider engaging or employing an independent engineer or testing laboratory to check, review, verify, and approve any and all engineering items within such project.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees states in relevant part:
CONFLICTING EMPLOYMENT OR CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIP. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity or any agency which is subject to the regulation of, or is doing business with, an agency of which he is an officer or employee, excluding those organizations and their officers who, when acting in their official capacity, enter into or negotiate a collective bargaining contract with the state or any municipality, county, or other political subdivision of the state; nor shall an officer or employee of an agency have or hold any employment or contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties . . . . [Emphasis supplied; Fla. Stat. s. 112.313(7)(a)(1975).]
The above-quoted provision prohibits a public officer or employee from holding employment with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of his public agency. The engineering firm with which the county engineer is employed clearly is subject to the regulation of the building department, the county engineer's public agency. Additionally, the county engineer is a public officer by virtue of his membership on the county subdivision advisory committee. See Fla. Stat. s. 112.313(1)(1975). The subject engineering firm also is subject to the regulation of the county subdivision advisory committee in that the committee must approve all plats drawn by that firm. Accordingly, the county engineer is prohibited from holding either the position of county engineer or membership on the county subdivision advisory committee while concurrently holding employment with the subject engineering firm. This prohibition applies to the above-described situation notwithstanding the fact that the subject individual may abstain from voting or recommend that an independent engineer or laboratory be engaged when matters relating to his engineering firm come before his agencies.