CEO 77-75 -- May 19, 1977
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
MUNICIPAL FIREFIGHTER EMPLOYED BY FIRE EQUIPMENT COMPANY
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
A municipal firefighter whose duties include fire protection inspection of commercial property and private residences is prohibited by s. 112.313(7)(a), F. S. 1975, from being employed in his off-duty hours by a fire equipment sales company. Because the subject company sells fire equipment to the fire department, the employee would hold employment with a business entity which does business with his public agency. In addition, such private employment would create a frequently recurring conflict between private interests and public duty inasmuch as his private sales of fire protection equipment could derive from his public duty to inspect businesses and homes. See also s. 112.311(1), which prohibits the use of public position for private gain other than the remuneration provided by law.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest exist were a municipal firefighter to be employed by a fire equipment company on his days off duty?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry and in a telephone conversation with our staff you have stated that you are the Fire Chief of the City of Naples and that one of the firefighters employed by the city fire department, Mr. James Sheldrake, wishes to be employed by a fire equipment company during his off-duty hours. You also have stated that the duties of a firefighter include inspecting commercial property and homes, when requested by the homeowner, as well as responding to emergency calls. As an employee of the fire equipment company, the subject firefighter would be in the position of being able to supply, for example, a fire extinguisher to a person whose property he had inspected and found to need an additional fire extinguisher. In addition, you have stated that the particular fire equipment company would be bidding to sell equipment to the purchasing department of the city when you have requested that department to purchase equipment for the fire department.
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 employee from being employed by a business entity which is doing business with his agency and also prohibits a public employee from holding any employment that will create a frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties.
Therefore, the subject firefighter may not be employed by a company which is doing business with the fire department which employs him. Although in your municipality equipment needed by the fire department is purchased through the purchasing department, in our view a company which supplies such equipment to the purchasing department is doing business with the fire department for purposes of the Code of Ethics. Consequently, the subject firefighter is prohibited from being employed by a fire equipment company if that company contracts with the city to provide equipment to the fire department.
In addition, we perceive that the subject firefighter's employment with a fire equipment company would create a frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties despite his intention to work for the company only on his off-duty hours. As a part of his public duties the subject firefighter performs inspections of private property; but as an employee of a fire equipment company, he could sell equipment to the same persons whose property he had inspected. This situation could result in the subject firefighter's use of his public position for private gain other than the remuneration provided by law, a possibility that the Code of Ethics was intended to preclude. Section 112.311(1), F. S. 1975.
Accordingly, we find that the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees prohibits the subject municipal firefighter from being employed by a fire equipment company on his days off duty.