CEO 76-62 -- March 16, 1976
VOTING CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COMMISSIONER WHO IS VETERINARIAN VOTING ON ANIMAL CONTROL ORDINANCE
To: William F. Edwards, Citrus County Attorney, Inverness
Prepared by: Bonnie Johnson
Florida Statute s. 112.3143(1975) provides that no public officer shall be prohibited from voting in his official capacity on any matter. Should such officer vote on a matter in which he has a personal, private, or professional interest which would inure to his special private gain or that of a client, however, he is required to file a memorandum of voting conflict with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting at which the vote occurred. Such disclosure would be required where a county commissioner who is a licensed veterinarian participates in the vote on an animal control ordinance which may require the vaccination of animals by veterinarians, for such commissioner/veterinarian would stand to personally gain from such ordinance.
1. Where a member of a board of county commissioners is a licensed veterinarian who practices in the county, must he abstain from discussion of and voting upon a proposed animal control ordinance which may require the vaccination of animals by licensed veterinarians?
2. Would the situation described in question 1 above constitute a voting conflict of interest requiring disclosure?
Question 1 is answered in the negative.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in pertinent part:
VOTING CONFLICTS. -- No public officer shall be prohibited from voting in his official capacity on any matter. However, any public officer voting in his official capacity upon any measure in which he has a personal, private, or professional interest and which inures to his special private gain or the special gain of any principal by whom he is retained shall, within 15 days after the vote occurs, disclose the nature of his interest as a public record in a memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting, who shall incorporate the memorandum in the minutes. [Fla. Stat. s. 112.3143(1975).]
Pursuant to this section, no public officer is denied the right to vote on any matter. In our opinion, this provision contemplates that, even where an official may have a private interest in the issue, he may, in his own discretion, be able to maintain impartiality and cast his vote in the public interest. Accordingly, we find that the subject commissioner may participate in discussion of the proposed animal control ordinance and may exercise his right to vote on the ordinance, in his own discretion.
Question 2 is answered in the affirmative.
Inasmuch as the subject commissioner/veterinarian would stand to privately gain from an ordinance requiring the vaccination of animals by a licensed veterinarian, a conflict would exist under s. 112.3143, quoted above. Should he choose to vote on the ordinance, he therefore would be required to file a Memorandum of Voting Conflict, CE Form 4 (copy enclosed) with the person recording the minutes of the meeting at which the vote occurred. Should he elect to abstain from voting, no disclosure is required.