CEO 77-169 -- November 10, 1977
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DIRECTOR OF COUNTY AIRPORTS ALSO OFFICER OF CORPORATION CONTRACTING WITH COUNTY TO SERVE AS FIXED BASE OPERATOR AT TWO COUNTY AIRPORTS
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
A public employee is prohibited from having an employment or contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with his public agency or which will create a frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties. Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S. 1975. Accordingly, a director of county airports is prohibited from simultaneously serving as an officer of a corporation which has leases with the county to serve as fixed base operator at two county airports, inasmuch as such director of airports is directly employed by the county commission, which also allocates money directly to him in his official capacity.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where a director of county airports also is an officer of a corporation which has leases with the county to serve as fixed base operator at two county airports?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Mr. George Hoagland is the president of a corporation which holds leases at two county airports to act as fixed base operator. According to these leases, the county has granted to the corporation the right to use the premises leased to sell gasoline and oil; to repair and maintain aircraft; to sell aircraft, parts, and equipment; to operate a flight and ground school; and to provide a rental and charter flying service at each airport. In addition, you advise that the board of county commissioners has hired Mr. Hoagland as director of all its airports in the county, including the two airports at which his corporation is the fixed base operator.
The job description of airport director states that the major function of the director is to direct the operation, maintenance, and security of an airport, with responsibility for carrying out the general policies of the county commission on all matters affecting the airports and their tenants and making management decisions within the framework of those policies. The director also exercises considerable independent judgment in planning airport operational procedures and development. The director's duties, as illustrated in his job description, include: Establishing and maintaining control over the internal procedures of the departmental operation, including accounting and leasing procedures, airport safety regulations, and terminal operations; planning and recommending an annual departmental budget; inspecting facilities of airports and making recommendations; planning and recommending fiscal policies, rental rates, and other charges; and planning and developing additional revenue sources.
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 having employment or a contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with his agency and prohibits him from having employment or a contractual relationship that will create a frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties.
In our view, the subject employee's agency is the county. "Agency" is defined to mean
any state, regional, county, local, or municipal government entity of this state, whether executive, judicial, or legislative; any department, division, bureau, commission, authority, or political subdivision of this state therein; or any public school, community college, or state university. [Section 112.312(2), F. S. 1975.]
The subject employee's job description indicates that the airport director may be the head of a department of the county, in which case his agency would be that department. However, he is directly employed by the county commission, and your office has informed our staff that for budgetary purposes, money for airport operation is allocated under "airports," unlike such county departments as the legal department or the department of public works. Moreover, we perceive a continuing conflict between his public duties as airport director and his private interests as president of the corporation which does business at two county airports.
Accordingly, a prohibited conflict of interest exists where a director of county airports also is an officer of a corporation which has contracted with the county to serve as fixed base operator at two county airports.