CEO 83-13 -- March 10, 1983
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
STATE REPRESENTATIVE EMPLOYED BY ENGINEERING FIRM
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a State Representative to be employed by an engineering firm on a part-time basis to transmit news articles concerning engineering-related matters and to solicit clients in the private sector. The exemption for legislative bodies contained in Section 112.313(7)(a)2 as applied in CEO's 77-129 and 80-7 is referenced. Services provided to the firm could include soliciting clients in the public sector such as cities, counties, and other political subdivisions. However, solicitations of State officials or employees might violate Article II, Section 8(e), Florida Constitution. Section 112.313(8), Florida Statutes, would permit also transmitting engineering- related legislative information and committee reports after the information had been presented or made available at a public meeting and the information was put into the public record. So long as the firm would not do business with the Legislature and the Representative is not involved personally in soliciting business from a State agency, the firm may do business with that State agency. CEO 80-39 is referenced.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a State Representative, to be employed by an engineering firm to provide services on a part-time basis?
Based upon the responsibilities of your position with the engineering firm, we answer your question in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are a member of the Florida House of Representatives and that you have been contacted by a Hillsborough County engineering firm to provide professional services on a part-time basis. The firm provides surveying, civil engineering and consulting services primarily in Hillsborough and surrounding counties. In part, your position with the firm would involve transmitting all articles or reports published by the news media containing engineering-related material and soliciting clients in the private sector.
Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, prohibits a public officer from having any employment or contractual relationship with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of his agency. As a State Representative, your agency is the Legislature, whose regulatory powers extend generally over every business entity in the State. However, members of legislative bodies are given a limited exemption from the application of Section 112.313(7)(a) by subparagraph (7)(a)2, where the regulatory power which the legislative body exercises over the business entity is strictly through the enactment of laws or ordinances. As the regulatory power which the Legislature exercises over engineering firms in this State is strictly through the enactment of laws, your relationship with the firm falls within the exemption and therefore does not present a prohibited conflict of interest. See CEO 77-129 and CEO 80-7 for other examples of this exemption.
In addition, you advise that the position also would involve transmitting engineering-related legislative information and committee reports after the information has been presented or made available at a meeting that is open to the public and the information has been put into the public record. With respect to these responsibilities, the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees 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), Florida Statutes (1981).]
As you have specified that this responsibility would encompass information only after it has been made available to members of the general public as a public record, we find that this prohibition would not apply. However, we would caution you to avoid the use of your legislative personnel or facilities in obtaining this information, since such use might violate, or present the appearance of a violation of, the following provision of the Code of Ethics:
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), Florida Statutes (1981).]
You also have advised that your services for the engineering firm would include assisting in introduction of the engineering staff to the public sector and soliciting clients for the firm in the public sector, including various city and county political subdivisions. However, you stress that you would not undertake introductions or solicitations, whether personal or in writing, insofar as they might involve elected officials, appointed personnel, or staff of the State of Florida and any of its political subdivisions. As limited in this manner, we find that these responsibilities would not violate any provision of the Code of Ethics or the restriction of Article II, Section 8(e), Florida Constitution, against a member of the legislature personally representing another person or entity for compensation before a state agency other than judicial tribunals.
Finally, you advise that it is your understanding that the engineering firm could do business with the State of Florida if you are not involved personally in the solicitation or transaction of business or services. So long as the firm does not do business with the Legislature, the Code of Ethics would not prohibit the firm from doing business with other agencies or entities of State government. See CEO 78-39 in which we advised that the Code of Ethics would not prohibit a State legislator from serving as an officer and director of a corporation which performs construction for municipalities, counties, and the state.
Accordingly, subject to the restrictions noted above, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to provide the services you have outlined for the engineering firm.