CEO 82-86 -- October 29, 1982
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
EMPLOYEE OF PROPERTY APPRAISER'S OFFICE ENGAGING IN REAL ESTATE SALES
To: Mr. Kenneth M. Wilkinson, Lee County Property Appraiser
The Code of Ethics does not prohibit altogether an employee of a property appraiser from engaging in outside real estate activity. However, Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, might be violated by an employee's particular outside employment. The disclosure or use of confidential information from the appraiser's office would violate Section 112.313(8), Florida Statutes.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were an employee of a county property appraiser's office, who holds an active real estate license, to engage in real estate sales activities?
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are the Property Appraiser for Lee County. You also advise that eight employees of your office are licensed as real estate salesmen or real estate brokers. All of these employees deal on a day-to-day basis with the establishment of assessed values on real property in the County for ad valorem tax purposes. Finally, you advise that any outside real estate sales activity would take place outside of the employee's normal working hours.
In a previous opinion, CEO 80-58, we advised that the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would not prohibit an employee of a county property appraiser's office from holding an active real estate license placed with a broker, while agreeing to refrain from engaging in any real estate function which requires a license unless prior, written consent of the property appraiser were obtain. It is, therefore, our view that the Code of Ethics does not prohibit altogether an employee of a property appraiser from engaging in outside real estate activities.
This is not to say, however, that a prohibited conflict of interest could not arise in a particular situation involving an employee of a property appraiser engaging in real estate activities. For example, as noted in CEO 80-58, an employee would be prohibited from holding any employment or contractual relationship with a broker who is doing business in some fashion with the property appraiser's office. In addition, it is possible that a particular outside employment could give rise to a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest, or could impede the full and faithful discharge of the employee's public duties, in violation of Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes. Therefore, in the event that a specific situation arises in which additional guidance is needed, you may wish to request another opinion based upon those specific facts.
We note that employees of a property appraiser have access through their public positions to information which is confidential by law. For example, see Section 193.074, Florida Statutes, regarding taxpayers' returns; Section 195.027, Florida Statutes, regarding taxpayers' financial records; and Section 195.084, Florida Statutes, regarding records of the Department of Revenue. We would suggest that any of your employees who might engage in outside real estate activities be warned that the disclosure or use of confidential information would violate the following provision of the Code of Ethics:
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), Florida Statutes (1981).]
Accordingly, subject to the limitations expressed above, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were an employee of your office to engage in outside real estate sales activities.