CEO 80-19 -- March 20, 1980
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SCHOOL TEACHER OWNER OF TRAVEL AGENCY ARRANGING TRIP FOR STUDENTS THROUGH PRIVATE ORGANIZATION OF PARENTS
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
Reference is made to CEO's 75-196 (question 2) and 79-60, in which it was found that neither s. 112.313(3) nor (7), F. S., would be violated were a school teacher or school board member to sell goods or services to school- related organizations which receive no financial support from the school board or from individual schools and which are not directly controlled by the school board or by individual schools. Similarly, no prohibited conflict of interest is deemed to be created when an elementary school teacher and owner of a travel agency arranges a trip for students within his school district through a private organization of parents of gifted children, inasmuch as the organization neither receives financial support from the schools nor is directly controlled by the schools. It is observed, however, that the use of his position as a teacher to solicit business for his travel agency or to acquire information beneficial to his travel business potentially would be in violation of s. 112.313(6) or (8).
Would a prohibited conflict of interest exist were I, an elementary school teacher and owner of a travel agency, to arrange a trip for students within my school district through a private organization of parents?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry, you advise that you are a teacher of gifted students at an elementary school and that you own a travel agency. In addition, you advise that, in the past, you were asked by a countywide nonprofit organization of parents of gifted children to arrange a trip to Mexico for interested gifted students from the county. You question whether your activities as an agent contracted to supply services to an organization separate from the school system would be prohibited by the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
DOING BUSINESS WITH ONE'S AGENCY. -- No employee of an agency acting in his official capacity as a purchasing agent, or public officer acting in his official capacity, shall either directly or indirectly purchase, rent, or lease any realty, goods, or services for his own agency from any business entity of which he or his spouse or child is an officer, partner, director, or proprietor or in which such officer or employee or his spouse or child, or any combination of them, has a material interest. Nor shall a public officer or employee, acting in a private capacity, rent, lease, or sell any realty, goods, or services to his own agency, if he is a state officer or employee, or to any political subdivision or any agency thereof, if he is serving as an officer or employee of that political subdivision. The foregoing shall not apply to district offices maintained by legislators when such offices are located in the legislator's place of business. This subsection shall not affect or be construed to prohibit contracts entered into prior to:
(a) October 1, 1975.
(b) Qualification for elective office.
(c) Appointment to public office.
(d) Beginning public employment.
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 is 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(3) and (7)(a), F. S.]
In previous advisory opinions, we have found that these provisions would not prohibit a school teacher or a school board member from selling goods or services to school-related organizations which receive no financial support from the school board or from individual schools and which are not directly controlled by the school board or by individual schools. See CEO 79-60 and CEO 75-196 (Question 2). As it appears that the particular organization of parents of gifted students involved here is not receiving financial support from the schools and is not directly controlled by the schools, the situation you contemplate would not be prohibited by the Code of Ethics.
However, the Code of Ethics also provides:
DISCLOSURE OR USE OF CERTAIN INFORMATION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall disclose or use information not available to members of the general public and gained by reason of his official position for his personal gain or benefit or for the personal gain or benefit of any other person or business entity. [Section 112.313(8), F. S.]
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. This section shall not be construed to conflict with s. 104.31. [Section 112.313(6), F. S.]
The term "corruptly" is defined 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. [Section 112.312(7), F. S.]
Because these provisions require a determination of intent, we prefer not to render an advisory opinion as to their applicability. However, we do wish to observe that the use of your position as teacher to solicit business for your travel agency or to acquire information beneficial to your travel business presents at least the appearance of a possible violation of s. 112.313(6), above. For this reason, we would advise that you be extremely careful to avoid using your position in any manner in connection with arranging travel for gifted students.
Accordingly, we find that, subject to the caveat mentioned above, no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you, an elementary school teacher and owner of a travel agency, to arrange a trip for students within your school district through a private organization of parents. Please be advised that we have no authority to interpret the Code of Ethics of the Education Profession or any school board policies or rules which may be in effect within your district and which may apply to your situation.