CEO 78-49 -- July 20, 1978
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY MAYOR ACCEPTING TRIP TO EUROPEWITH LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL BAND
To: Warren Andrews, Mayor, Largo
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
The Code of Ethics would not be violated were a municipal mayor to accept a trip to Europe in order to accompany the community's high school band at an international competition and at various other concerts in Europe as, under the particular circumstances described, such acceptance is not deemed to impinge upon the performance of his public duties. The facts indicate that the trip was offered for the purpose of having official community representation at the events, and there is no indication that the offer was made based upon any understanding that the mayor's vote, official action, or judgment would be influenced thereby, in violation of s. 112.313(2)(b), F. S. 1977. Nor was it found that the mayor knew, or with the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that the trip was offered to influence his vote or other official action in which he was expected to participate, in violation of s. 112.313(4), inasmuch as the city's only official connection with the band was through a $10,000 appropriation to help defray expenses of the European trip and further because of the improbability of such appropriations being solicited or made in the future.
Would the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees be violated were I, the Mayor of the City of Largo, to accept a trip to Europe in order to accompany my community's high school band at an international competition and at various other concerts in Europe?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that your community's high school band has attained international acclaim by winning dozens of first place trophies within the United States and by winning two gold medals with distinction four years ago at an international music festival in Kerkrade, Holland, which is held every four years. You also advise that except for a few thousand dollars from the school board, expenses for the band, which has been registered as a nonprofit corporation, traditionally have been raised by the members of the band. However, this year the band has been invited to participate in the Kerkrade festival again and also is scheduled to give a number of concerts throughout Europe. As a consequence, you advise, at this year's city budget hearings you, as mayor, spearheaded and voted for a $10,000 appropriation for the band to help defray their expenses, in exchange for which the band would perform certain concerts in the city.
In addition, you advise that at each of the European concerts the band will be officially received by the mayor or lord mayor of the city, with appropriate ceremony. Therefore, it is the opinion of the board of directors of the band that if the mayor of its city were present at these functions to present suitable greetings and mementos from the city, the ceremony would be enhanced and would be given added prestige. Inasmuch as the band is not an official component of the city, the city commission has not considered sending an official representative along on the tour. You also advise that two airplanes have been chartered for the trip, and some of the expenses are being raised by selling "tag-along" tours for anyone who cares to accompany the band, with the price of each tour including transportation, hotel accommodations, and meals. Finally, you advise that it has been proposed that if it is not possible to sell all the seats, a seat would be offered to you as mayor as the airplane space has already been paid for. All other expenses except this transportation would be your responsibility.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
(2) SOLICITATION OR ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS. -- No public officer or employee of an agency or candidate for nomination or election shall solicit or accept anything of value to the recipient, including a gift, loan, reward, promise of future employment, favor, or service:
(b) That is based upon any understanding that the vote, official action, or judgment of the public officer, employee, or candidate would be influenced thereby.
(4) UNAUTHORIZED COMPENSATION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency or his spouse or minor child shall, at any time, accept any compensation, payment, or thing of value when such public officer or employee knows, or, with the exercise of reasonable care, should know, that it was given to influence a vote or other action in which the officer or employee was expected to participate in his official capacity. [Section 112.313(2)(b) and (4), F. S. 1977.]
Because the issues raised by these provisions of the Code of Ethics are not resolved completely by the information provided in your letter of inquiry and because of time constraints, our staff has contacted you by telephone in order to obtain additional information. In that conversation you advised that the city has no regulatory authority over the band and, in fact, has no connection with the band except through the $10,000 appropriation made to it. You also advised that no such appropriation has been made before this year and that this year's appropriation was discussed in terms of assisting the band's $300,000 budget for its European trip. You advised that there was no understanding prior to the appropriation that you would be offered the trip in exchange for your assistance in obtaining the appropriation and that your going on the trip had not come up until you were contacted about it just prior to the time you requested this opinion. At that time, you advised, the director and board members of the band approached you, stating that they would prefer to have the mayor with them on the trip because during their last time in Europe they had been met by the heads of the cities they had visited, but no representative of their city had been present. You also advised that, in your opinion, the trip was being offered to you for this reason, rather than as an attempt to influence any of your future, official actions. In addition, you stated that you doubt the question of a city appropriation for the band next year will arise, both because there will be no necessity for one since the European competition occurs only every four years and because you perceive a diminishing community willingness to support the band at a level that has enabled it to achieve its present reputation.
Under these circumstances, we cannot find that the trip is being offered to you based upon any understanding that your vote, official action, or judgment would be influenced thereby, in violation of s. 112.313(2)(b) of the Code of Ethics. Nor can we find that you know or, with the exercise of reasonable care, should know that the trip is being offered to influence your vote or other official action in which you are expected to participate, in violation of s. 112.313(4), because the city's only official connection with the band is through this year's appropriation and because of the improbability of the issue of another appropriation arising next year.
Accordingly, we find that under the facts presented the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would not be violated were you, the Mayor of the City of Largo, to accept a trip to Europe in order to accompany your community's high school band at an international competition and at various other concerts in Europe.