CEO 82-41 -- July 1, 1982
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM COORDINATOR ENGAGING IN PRIVATE COUNSELING
To:Mr. David A. Schriemer, Mental Health Program Coordinator, Department of Corrections
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the Mental Health Program Coordinator for the Department of Corrections to offer private counseling to families of inmates to assist in family integration and resocialization following the inmates' release from prison. Here, it appears that a unity of interests, rather than a conflict of interests, would result, since the employee's private efforts would be directed toward the successful rehabilitation of offenders. In addition, the Department has no authority to provide family therapy in the community, and the employee would be counseling with families of inmates rather than with inmates.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, the Mental Health Program Coordinator for the Department of Corrections, to offer private counseling to families of inmates to assist in family integration and resocialization following the inmates' release from prison?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that presently you are employed as Mental Health Program Coordinator for the Department of Corrections. In this position, you are responsible for coordinating the Statewide mental health program for the Department of Corrections, for developing policies and operating procedures to assure compliance with applicable mental health related laws and standards, and for consulting with and providing professional and technical assistance to Department administrators and health staff on matters pertaining to the delivery, evaluation, and assessment of mental health services to the inmate population. You question whether you may offer private counseling to families of inmates in order to provide family therapy and planning for the successful family integration and resocialization of ex-offenders released from prison. The services would be provided to citizens in free society only, and would include the development and implementation of family treatment plans, family therapy, and rehabilitative services.
You further advise that clients would be identified only from private, nondepartmental sources, with counseling occurring in the homes of the families, a room provided by a local church, or any other suitable, private dwelling. Any confidential information about an incarcerated person will be obtained only in accordance with standard release of information procedures available to all appropriate agencies, mental health professionals, or attorneys. Finally, you advise that the Department of Corrections, while charged with the custody and care of inmates sentenced by the court, has no authority or program for the provision of family therapy in the community.
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 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(7)(a), Florida Statutes (1981)]
In particular, this provision prohibits a public employee from having any employment or contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties.
However, we do not perceive that the private counseling services which you would offer would conflict with your responsibilities as the Mental Health Program Coordinator for the Department. Rather, it appears that there would be a unity of interests. Certainly, one of the goals of the Department of Corrections is the rehabilitation of offenders. To the extent that your private efforts would result in the successful resocialization of ex-offenders, insuring their continued rehabilitation, you would be assisting the Department to fulfill its goals.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to offer private counseling to families of inmates in order to assist in family integration and resocialization following the inmates' release from prison. As a cautionary note, we would advise you to strictly avoid any use of your position or departmental resources in this private endeavor.