CEO 77-120 -- July 21, 1977
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY ATTORNEY RENTING TO COUNTY LIBRARY PORTION OF BUILDING OWNED BY HIM; PARENTS OF COUNTY ATTORNEY OWNING INSURANCE AGENCY WHICH SELLS INSURANCE TO COUNTY
To: Robert Snow, Hernando County Attorney, Brooksville
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
As s. 112.313(3), F. S. 1975, prohibits a public officer from acting in a private capacity to rent realty to any agency within the political subdivision he serves, a county attorney is prohibited from renting a portion of a building in which he owns half interest to the county library. However, the Code of Ethics contains no provision which would prohibit a business entity owned by the parents of a public officer from doing business with that officer's agency. Accordingly, no conflict would be created were an insurance agency owned by the parents of the county attorney to sell insurance to agencies of the county.
1. Would a prohibited conflict of interest exist were I, a county attorney, to rent to the county library a portion of a building in which I own half interest?
2. Is a prohibited conflict of interest created where an insurance company owned by my parents writes insurance for the county and the county hospital, both of which I represent as an attorney?
Question 1 is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry you have stated that you are the retained County Attorney for Hernando County and that you have been approached by the county library to rent to them a portion of a building in which you own half interest.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
DOING BUSINESS WITH ONE'S AGENCY. -- No employee of an agency acting in his official capacity as a purchasing agent, or public officer acting in his official capacity, shall either directly or indirectly purchase, rent, or lease any realty, goods, or services for his own agency from any business entity of which he or his spouse or child is an officer, partner, director, or proprietor or in which such officer or employee or his spouse or child, or any combination of them, has a material interest. Nor shall a public officer or employee, acting in a private capacity, rent, lease, or sell any realty, goods, or services to his own agency, if he is a state officer or employee, or to any political subdivision or any agency thereof, if he is serving as an officer or employee of that political subdivision. . . . [Section 112.313(3), F. S. 1975.]
This provision prohibits a public officer, acting in a private capacity, from renting any realty to the political subdivision which he serves or to any agency of that political subdivision. We have previously determined that ownership of a material interest is sufficient to constitute "acting in a private capacity" on the part of the interest holder. See CEO 75-196. Accordingly, as county attorney, you are prohibited from renting a portion of a building in which you own half interest to the county library, an agency of the county.
Question 2 is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that, in addition to serving as county attorney, you also represent the county hospital. Your parents own a general insurance agency which from time to time writes insurance coverage for the county and the county hospital. You also advise that you own no interest in the insurance agency.
The Code of Ethics contains no provision which would prohibit a business entity owned by the parents of a public officer or employee from doing business with that officer's or employee's agency, so long as the officer or employee is not an officer, director, or employee of that business entity and so long as the officer or employee does not own over 5 percent of, or have a contractual relationship with, that business entity.