CEO 78-90 -- November 15, 1978
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
AIRPORT AUTHORITY MEMBER RECEIVING TRANSPORTATION TO FOOTBALL GAMES FROM EMPLOYEE OF TENANT OF AIRPORT AUTHORITY
To: James R. Dryer, Member, Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, Bradenton
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
Section 112.313(2)(b), F. S. 1977, prohibits a public officer from accepting anything of value that is based upon any understanding that his vote, official action, or judgment would be influenced. Similarly, a public officer is prohibited, in s. 112.313(4), from accepting anything of value when he knows, or with the exercise of reasonable care should know, that it was given to influence his official action. Where a recently elected airport authority member for the past three years has accepted airplane transportation to professional football games from a personal friend who is an employee of a tenant of the authority, it cannot be concluded that such transportation is intended to influence the authority member. Accordingly, under the circumstances presented, no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the authority member to continue to accept such air transportation from an employee of an airport tenant after he has taken office. Reference is made to CEO 78-41 with respect to the public disclosure of such transportation.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were I, a newly elected member of an airport authority board, to continue to accept airplane transportation to football games provided by a person who is employed by a tenant of the airport?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you recently won election to the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority. For the past 3 years, you further advise, you have held season tickets to professional football games with a group of five other persons, one of the members of which is employed by an airport tenant. It is this person who has provided airplane transportation to the games. You point out, however, that this person has been a personal friend for a number of years and has never asked for compensation from any member of your group for the expenses of the aircraft; furthermore, he has refused any compensation when it has been offered.
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.]
While the receipt of free airplane transportation would constitute a thing of value under each of these sections of the Code of Ethics, we cannot say that your continuing to accept such transportation under the circumstances you have presented would indicate any understanding that your official action would be influenced thereby. Nor could we say, based on the background you provide, that with the exercise of reasonable care you should know that such transportation would be given to influence a vote or other action in which you might be expected to participate in your official capacity.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to continue to accept airplane transportation from an employee of an airport tenant after you have taken office as a member of the airport authority board under the circumstance you have presented. With respect to the public disclosure of such transportation, See CEO 78-41 for your guidance.