CEO 77-78 -- May 19, 1977
VOTING CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY COUNCILMAN VOTING ON MATTERS AFFECTING ENGINEERING FIRM WHICH EMPLOYS HIS SPOUSE
To: Donald I. Garceau, City Councilman, West Melbourne
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
Pursuant to s. 112.3143, F. S. 1975, pertaining to voting conflicts of interest, a public officer who votes on a measure in which he has a personal, private, or professional interest and which inures to his special private gain must disclose such interest via the filing of a memorandum of voting conflict. However, where a city councilman is called upon to vote on a matter affecting an engineering firm which employs his spouse, any gain to the councilman would inure indirectly through his spouse, who would stand to gain indirectly through her employer, who would stand to gain indirectly from the measure being considered by the council. The potential for gain is deemed to be too remote and too tenuous to constitute a voting conflict under s. 112.3143.
Does a voting conflict arise when the city council of which I am a member considers a matter affecting the engineering firm which employs my spouse?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you have stated that you are a member of the City Council of the City of West Melbourne, which uses the services of an engineering firm on a consulting basis. Since the city uses the firm only as required, the firm also performs work for private developers operating within the city. As a councilman, you are required to vote on matters that involve developers and, consequently, which affect the engineering firm doing work for them. Recently, your wife obtained a job as a clerk typist with the engineering firm which consults with the city. You question whether the fact that your wife works for that engineering firm places you in a conflict of interest as far as your voting on development issues when that firm is working for the developers or when the firm is representing the city.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant 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. [Section 112.3143, F. S. 1975.]
Under this provision a public officer who has voted upon a measure in which he has a personal, private, or professional interest and which inures to his special private gain must file CE Form 4, Memorandum of Voting Conflict, with the person responsible for the minutes of the meeting.
In the situations you have described, any gain which would inure to you by virtue of the measures considered by the council would inure to you indirectly through your wife, who would stand to gain indirectly through her employment with the engineering firm, which in turn would stand to gain indirectly from the measure being considered by the council. In our view any gain you would stand to receive from the types of measures you have described would be too remote and too tenuous to constitute a voting conflict under s. 112.3143.
Accordingly, we see no conflict in your voting as a member of the city council upon development issues when the engineering firm which employs your wife is working for private developers in the matter or when the firm is representing the city in the matter.