CEO 79-58 -- October 17, 1979
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
FORMER EMPLOYEE OF DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION REPRESENTING CLIENTS BEFORE DEPARTMENT
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
No provision of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees prohibits a former state employee from representing clients before his state agency. Although s. 8(e), Art. II, State Const., prohibits former legislators and statewide elected officers from such representation before their former agencies, no similar restrictions have been established by law which would encompass other public officers or employees.
Does the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees or the Sunshine Amendment to the State Constitution prohibit me, an engineer formerly employed by the Department of Environmental Regulation, from representing clients before the department?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry and in a telephone conversation with our staff you advise that, until March of this year, you were employed by the Department of Environmental Regulation as an engineer, your responsibilities including the review of permit applications. At present, you are a private environmental consultant, and you anticipate that this work will result in contact with the department as the engineer of record on permit applications. As the engineer of record, you will be responsible for supervising construction to assure compliance with permit application documents; for reporting changes from the original plans to the department; for providing an operations and maintenance procedures manual to the applicants, if authorized by the applicant; for periodically reviewing the status of the facility for compliance with applicable rules and regulations; and for certifying completion of construction according to plans.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees contains no provision which would prohibit a former state employee from representing clients before his agency. The bill, enacted in 1975 as the present standard of conduct of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, originally contained a provision which would have prohibited a public employee from representing another person for compensation before his agency for a period of 2 years following his employment with the agency. Section 7, H.B. 2099 (1975). However, that provision was stricken from the bill by the House of Representatives. 1975 House Journal, p. 00564.
Subsequently, the citizens of Florida enacted the Sunshine Amendment to the State Constitution, which contains the following prohibition:
No member of the legislature or statewide elected officer shall personally represent another person or entity for compensation before the government body or agency of which the individual was an officer or member for a period of two years following vacation of office. . . . Similar restrictions on public officers and employees may be established by law. [Section 8(e), Art. II, State Const.]
As you were not a member of the Legislature or a statewide elected officer, this provision would not apply to you. No similar restrictions have been established by law which would encompass other public officers or employees.
Accordingly, neither the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees nor the Sunshine Amendment to the Constitution prohibits your representation of clients before the Department of Environmental Regulation. Please note that we have no authority to advise you of any professional responsibility you may have in this situation. Such inquiries should be directed to the Board of Engineers of the Department of Professional Regulation.