CEO 77-175 -- November 10, 1977
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SENATOR DISTRIBUTING SENATE PUBLICATION TO SCHOOL AND CIVIC GROUPS
To: George A. Williamson, Senator, 29th District, Ft. Lauderdale
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
No misuse of public position, as described and prohibited by s. 112.313(6), F. S., is deemed to exist where a state senator transmits copies of a brochure entitled "The Florida Senate" which have been stamped with his name to persons or groups which have requested copies of such document. The stamped message is deemed to serve a function similar to that of a cover letter or a business card. Reference is made to CEO 75-45. Section 112.313(6) potentially would be violated, however, were the brochure to be transmitted unsolicited as, for example, part of an election campaign effort. As the jurisdiction of the Commission on Ethics is limited to s. 8, Art. II of the Florida Constitution and part III, Ch. 112, F. S., the Attorney General and the Division of Elections should be consulted as to the potential applicability of other statutes.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were I, a state senator, to distribute a brochure entitled "The Florida Senate" with my name stamped inside to school and civic groups upon their request?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you have received numerous requests from local school and civic groups for a publication known as "The Florida Senate" and that you would like to distribute some of these brochures with an added message to be stamped inside the back cover which would read, "Compliments of Senator George A. Williamson, District 29, Fort Lauderdale, Florida." In a telephone conversation with our staff, your aide advised that these brochures are given free of charge to visitors to the Capitol and have been given previously by you without your name stamped to persons requesting copies.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall corruptly use or attempt to use his official position or any property or resource which may be within his trust, or perform his official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself or others. . . . [Section 112.313(6), F. S. 1975.]
In turn, the term "corruptly" is defined in s. 112.312(7), F. S. (1976 Supp.), to mean
done with a wrongful intent and for the purpose of obtaining, or compensating or receiving compensation for, any benefit resulting from some act or omission of a public servant which is inconsistent with the proper performance of his public duties.
Under this provision, we see nothing wrong with your sending copies of "The Florida Senate" which have been stamped with your name to persons or groups which have requested copies. Where copies have been requested, the stamped message would serve a function similar to that of a cover letter or a business card. See CEO 75-45, a copy of which is enclosed. However, we perceive a possible violation of this provision were copies to be sent unsolicited as, for example, part of a campaign.
Accordingly, we find that the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees does not prohibit you from distributing the brochure "The Florida Senate" with your name stamped inside to school and civic groups upon their request. As our jurisdiction is limited to s. 8, Art. II of the Florida Constitution and the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, you may wish to obtain the opinion of the Elections Division of the Department of State or of the Attorney General as to whether the practice you have described would be subject to elections code regulations.