CEO 79-81 -- December 20, 1979
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
HIGHWAY PATROL TROOPER PROVIDING ESCORT SERVICE FOR OVERSIZED LOADS
To: R. V. Myers, Florida Highway Patrol, Keystone Heights
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees prohibits a public officer or employee from being employed by or having a contractual relationship with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of his public agency. Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S. However, the Florida Highway Patrol is not deemed to "regulate" persons or businesses by virtue of its duty and authority to enforce the criminal laws of this state which are generally applicable to everyone. No conflict of interest therefore is deemed to be created were a Highway Patrol trooper privately to engage in providing escort services for the movement of oversized loads on Florida highways.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were I, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, to provide privately an escort service for the movement of oversized loads on Florida highways?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you presently are employed by the Florida Highway Patrol as a traffic trooper and that you plan to establish an escort service for the movement of oversized loads on Florida highways. This escort service, you advise, would involve escorting oversized loads as required by permits issued by the Department of Transportation to companies which transport such loads. These companies include commercial carriers as well as private companies, such as heavy equipment dealers, who transport large bulldozers and other oversized machinery. When these loads are of a certain width or length, you advise, the Department of Transportation requires the companies to have either a company escort or a police escort. Thus, there are many police agencies which allow their officers to escort trucks on their off-duty time. In addition, there are several private escort services throughout the state.
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 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.]
This provision prohibits a public officer or employee from being employed by or having a contractual relationship with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of his agency. Thus, you question whether a conflict of interest would arise from the fact that you would be hired to provide escort services to trucking companies against which you have a duty to enforce Florida laws.
Members of the Florida Highway Patrol have been designated as law enforcement officers of the state, having the same powers as other law enforcement officers, with particular authority regarding state highways. Section 321.05, F. S. However, we are of the opinion that the Florida Highway Patrol does not "regulate" persons or businesses by virtue of its duty and authority to enforce the criminal laws of this state which are generally applicable to everyone. Were we to read the above-quoted provisions of the Code of Ethics otherwise, we, in effect, would prohibit all law enforcement officers from having any outside employment with any person or business, since all persons and businesses are subject to the criminal laws of the state. We do not believe the Legislature intended such a result by its enactment of these provisions of the Code of Ethics.
There are instances in which a law enforcement officer might be deemed to be privately employed by a business which is regulated by his law enforcement agency. For example, see CEO 78-93 in which we advised that a city police officer could not own a pawn outlet when the police department had substantial authority over that particular type of business pursuant to a city ordinance. Similarly, if you were employed by the Public Service Commission, which has the clear authority to license and otherwise regulate motor carriers under Ch. 323, F. S., there would appear to be a possible prohibited conflict of interest in your employment or contracting with motor carriers to escort oversized loads.
Based on the above rationale, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to provide, privately, an escort service for the movement of oversized loads on Florida highways while remaining a Highway Patrol trooper.