CEO 77-33 -- March 9, 1977
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER EMPLOYED BY NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION ASKING ARCHITECTURAL FIRM DOING BUSINESS WITH SCHOOL BOARD TO DONATE TO FUNDRAISING ACTIVITY OF NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION
To: ( Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
So long as the impartiality demanded of public officers and mandated by s. 112.311(1), F. S. 1975, is adhered to, no prohibited conflict of interest is created where a school board member who is employed by a nonprofit organization seeks donations of equipment for a fundraising activity from an architectural firm which does business with the school board. Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S. 1975, prohibits a public officer from having a contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with his public agency. Although the architectural firm does business with the school board, the provision is not applicable, as the school board member does not have a contractual relationship with the firm but, rather, seeks its support of the private organization by which he is employed.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where I, a school board member who is employed by a nonprofit organization, have asked an architectural firm which is doing business with the school board to donate to a fundraising activity sponsored by that nonprofit corporation?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you have stated that you are a member of the ____ County School Board and are employed as the Executive Director of ____, a nonprofit corporation serving children from single-parent families in the area. That organization plans a fundraising activity which will involve volunteer pilots taking children for short airplane rides for a small admission charge as a donation to the organization. As you have stated in a telephone conversation with our staff, you have asked an architectural firm which presently is doing work for the school board to donate the use of the firm's airplane and the services of their pilot. Although their plane and pilot will not be available on the date of the fundraising event, the firm has agreed to rent a plane and to make it available to the organization for the day.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides, in s. 112.313(7)(a), F. S. 1975, that no public officer shall have a contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with his agency. Although the architectural firm is doing business with your agency, the school board, it is clear from the facts you have presented that this provision does not apply because you do not have a contractual relationship with the firm.
In addition, the Code of Ethics provides that no public officer may solicit a gift, favor, or service that is based upon the understanding that the vote, official action, or judgment of the public officer would be influenced thereby. Section 112.313(2)(b), F. S. 1975. As there is no evidence that the architectural firm's donation has been solicited or offered with the understanding that your official actions as a member of the school board would be influenced in exchange, we find that the above provision does not apply in this situation. Accordingly, we find that the Code of Ethics does not prohibit you from asking an architectural firm which is doing business with the school board of which you are a member to donate to a fundraising activity of the nonprofit corporation which employs you.
We feel obligated to point out that the Code of Ethics specifies that
[i]t is essential to the proper conduct and operation of government that public officials be independent and impartial and that public office not be used for private gain other than the remuneration provided by law . . . . [Section 112.311(1), F. S. 1975; emphasis supplied.]
Therefore we suggest that if you feel uncomfortable as to the propriety of your actions, or if you feel that you may not be able to remain impartial in future matters before the school board concerning the architectural firm, you should not accept the firm's offer of a donation.