CEO 81-86 -- December 18, 1981
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
TOWN COUNCIL MEMBER BIDDING TO PURCHASE SURPLUS TOWN PROPERTY
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
A prohibited conflict of interest exists where a town council member has purchased a town vehicle by bid at a town auction. Previous opinions CEO 77-15 and CEO 79-10 are referenced in this regard. Although Section 112.3175, F. S., provides that any contract executed in violation of the Code of Ethics is voidable by any party to the contract, no provision of the Code of Ethics specifies whether the council member would be entitled to a refund of expenditures made for repairs to the vehicle prior to its return to the town.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where you, a town council member, have purchased a town vehicle by bid at a town auction?
This question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are a member of the Town Council of the Town of Eatonville, which recently sponsored a public auction. You also advise that you were the highest of three bidders for an old truck. After you had paid for the truck, you had it towed to a garage and you paid for certain repairs to be made. Subsequently, you were advised that there was a conflict of interest in your purchase of the truck, which was taken back by the Town. In addition, your check for the purchase of the truck was returned to you.
In previous opinions we have advised that the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would prohibit a county commissioner from purchasing by bid a surplus vehicle from the county (CEO 77-15), and would prohibit a city commissioner from bidding to purchase surplus city property (CEO 79-10).
Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest exists where you have purchased a vehicle at an auction from the Town in which you serve as Council member.
Your second question is substantially as follows:
Having purchased a vehicle from the town and having expended money for repairs to the vehicle, are you, a town council member, entitled to a refund of the repair expenses from the town?
Section 112.3175, F. S. (1979), provides that any contract which has been executed in violation of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees is voidable by any party to the contract. Under the circumstances you have presented, it appears that the City has exercised its right to void the sale of the truck and has returned the purchase price to you. However, the Code of Ethics contains no provision which specifies whether you would be entitled to a refund of your expenditure for repairs made to the truck. Since your entitlement to a refund is a matter of the legal rights and liabilities between you and the Town, and is not a matter encompassed by the Code of Ethics, we are unable to provide you with an answer to this question.