CEO 77-51 -- April 21, 1977
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER EMPLOYED BY CORPORATION PURVEYING MATERIALS TO SCHOOL BOARD
To: John R. Espey, Member, Pinellas County School Board, Clearwater
Prepared by: Bonnie Johnson
Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S. 1975, prohibits a public officer from holding employment with a business entity which does business with his public agency. Accordingly, a school board member who is employed by a corporation which purveys materials to the school board would appear to be prohibited from holding such employment. However, the Code of Ethics further provides that it is not the intent of the Code of Ethics to preclude those private pursuits which do not interfere with the full and faithful discharge of public duty. Section 112.316, F. S. 1975. Inasmuch as the subject school board member does not represent the corporation within the county in which he serves, and because the materials purveyed by the corporation are not available from alternate sources, the employment is not deemed to constitute a private pursuit which interferes with public duty. Based on these circumstances, no prohibited conflict of interest is created.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where I, a school board member, am employed by a corporation which purveys educational materials to the school board?
Your question is answered in the negative.
You advise in your letter of inquiry that you are a member of the School Board of Pinellas County and that privately you are employed as a field representative for the Psychological Corporation, covering the entire state with the exception of Pinellas County. The Psychological Corporation, you further advise, purveys educational and psychological testing to schools, industry, and various private clinicians. The School Board of Pinellas County purchases materials from the corporation but, to the best of your knowledge, still purchases only those materials which traditionally have been purchased, some of which are not available from other sources. Additionally, the Psychological Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich, Inc., with which the school board and schools within the district do business. As a field representative for the Psychological Corporation, you advise clients on evaluation problems and procedures and familiarize them with instruments and scoring services purveyed by the corporation.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part as follows:
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 . . . ; 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. [Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S. 1975.]
A public officer accordingly is prohibited from holding employment with a business entity which does business with his public agency. However, the Code of Ethics further provides:
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. [Section 112.316, F. S. 1975.]
We believe that the above-quoted provision, which mandates a rule of reason, is applicable to the situation herein presented, inasmuch as you do not represent the corporation in the Pinellas County area. Too, the materials purveyed by the Psychological Corporation, as well as books published by Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich, are not available from alternate sources. Accordingly, your employment with the corporation does not, in our view, constitute a private pursuit which interferes with the full and faithful discharge of your public duty.
In summary, and based on the above-stated circumstances, no prohibited conflict of interest exists where you, a school board member, privately are employed by a corporation which purveys educational materials to the school board.