CEO 76-48 -- March 16, 1976
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY COUNCILMAN EMPLOYED BY CORPORATION RECEIVING SERVICES FROM CITY
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Gene Rhodes
Florida Statute s. 112.313(7)(1975) prohibits a public officer from holding employment with any business which is regulated by or does business with the officer's public agency. Where a city councilman is offered employment by a corporation for which the city previously agreed to provide improvements in an effort to persuade such corporation to relocate within the municipality, no conflict is deemed to exist in the councilman's acceptance of such employment. The business was transacted prior to the offer of employment and therefore is not deemed to conflict with the councilman's public duties pursuant to s. 112.316(1975).
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created if a city councilman were to accept employment with a corporation for which the city agreed to make certain municipal improvements?
Your question is answered in the negative.
You have advised us in your letter of inquiry that the subject corporation has recently located its research facilities and business headquarters in the city. As an inducement to the corporation to move into the area, the city agreed to bear most of the cost of making certain municipal improvements in the area of the corporation's building site. These improvements include the acquisition of an additional street right-of-way leading to the property as well as the installation of sewer collection lines and public water lines to the property. The improvements will be made at an approximate cost of $80,000, of which the corporation will pay approximately $18,000. We understand that the city entered into this agreement not only because it feels that the corporation's presence will help alleviate the county's 18 percent unemployment rate, but also because the road will provide additional access to citizens living on the west side of town. Moreover, the city has a vested remainder in a portion of the property surrounding the road.
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 from holding employment with any business entity which is doing business with his agency. However, this provision must be read in light of another provision of the code 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. [Fla. Stat. s. 112.316(1975).]
This provision clearly states that the Code of Ethics shall not be construed to prevent a public officer from accepting employment which does not interfere with the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. As stated above, the city and the corporation entered into this contract prior to the offer of employment. The contract is limited to the aforementioned improvements and should not require any further major decisions by the city council. This being the case, we feel that the councilman's acceptance of employment with the corporation would not interfere with the full and faithful discharge of his official duties.
Please note that pursuant to s. 112.313(7), the city councilman would be prohibited from holding that position and concurrent employment with the corporation if there is any further business conducted between the corporation and the city.