CEO 80-30 -- April 17, 1980
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CLERK OF COURTS OWNING INTEREST IN TRAVEL AGENCY DOING BUSINESS WITH COUNTY
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
Section 112.313(3), F. S., prohibits an officer of a political subdivision from owning more than 5-percent of a business entity which is selling any goods or services to the political subdivision he serves or to any agency thereof. Accordingly, a county clerk of courts is prohibited from owning more than a 5-percent interest in a business entity which is selling its services to the county, subject to the exemption contained in s. 112.313(12)(f) for up to $500 worth of business within any 12-month period.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were I, a clerk of the circuit court, to own a one- fourth interest in a travel agency doing business with the county?
Your question is answered in the affirmative, with a possible exception which is explained below.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Citrus County and that recently you purchased a one-fourth interest in a travel agency. You further advise that, from time to time, the Citrus County Commission reserves air flights and hotel accommodations through the travel agency. These reservations are not purchased through your office but are placed directly with the travel agency by the county commission's administrator.
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.
[Section 112.313(3), F. S.]
This provision prohibits an officer of a political subdivision from owning more than 5 percent of a business entity which is selling any goods or services to the political subdivision he serves or to any agency thereof. Thus, you are prohibited from owning more than a 5- percent interest in a business which is selling its services to the county.
The Code of Ethics also contains several exemptions to the prohibition of s. 112.313(3), F. S. See s. 112.313(12) and CEO 77-182. We wish to direct your attention to two of these exemptions. First, s. 112.313(12)(c) creates an exemption when "[t]he purchase or sale is for legal advertising in a newspaper, for any utilities service, or for passage on a common carrier." Please note, however, that we have advised that this exemption would not apply to the purchase of transportation or other services through a travel agency. See CEO 80-1. Secondly, s. 112.313(12)(f) provides an exemption when "[t]he total amount of the subject transaction does not exceed $500." In CEO 77-182, we advised that this provision would exempt a total of no more than $500 worth of business in any given 12-month period.
Accordingly, subject to the $500 exemption referenced above, we find that the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would prohibit you from owning a one-fourth interest in a travel agency which sells services to the county which you serve as the clerk of the circuit court.