CEO 77-70 -- May 19, 1977
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY COUNCILMAN EMPLOYED BY COMPANY DOING BUSINESS WITH CITY
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S. 1975, prohibits a public officer from being employed by a business entity which is doing business with his agency. Where a city councilman is employed by a private company which seeks to sell a telephone system to the city, such sale would constitute a prohibited conflict of interest under the above-cited statute. Even though the proposal for such sale was made before the time that the subject councilman had qualified for office, a violation nonetheless would exist, as the council has before it the duty to act on the proposal and, potentially, to enter into a business transaction with the company which employs the councilman.
Would a city councilman have a prohibited conflict of interest were the council to purchase a private telephone system from a company which employs said councilman, where the sale originally was proposed prior to the councilman's qualifying as a candidate?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry and in a telephone conversation with our staff, you have stated that Mr. John Sabatini, a member of the City Council of the City of Winter Springs since December of 1976, is employed by a private telephone company of which neither he nor his spouse nor child is an officer, but in which he owns less than a material interest. Prior to the time the subject councilman qualified for office, the council became interested in changing its telephone service from Southern Bell Telephone. A proposal was presented to the council by the subject councilman on behalf of the private company for a new telephone system; however, the proposal was tabled and no action was taken in regard to the matter. Recently, and subsequent to the election of the subject councilman, the matter has come up again. He now wishes to know whether a prohibited conflict would be created were the council to purchase the private telephone system. You advise that the subject councilman would abstain from voting on the measure.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides 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 . . . ; 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.]
This provision prohibits a public officer from being employed by a business entity which is doing business with his agency.
Should the private company sell the telephone system to the city, the subject councilman would be employed by a business entity which is doing business with his agency. We do not feel that the fact that the proposal for such a purchase was made before the time that the subject councilman had qualified for office negates the effect of the standard of conduct in issue. The council still must act on the proposal and until doing so has not engaged in business with the company.
Accordingly, we find that the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would prohibit the subject city councilman from being employed by a private company were that company to sell a private telephone system to the city which he serves as councilman.