CEO 83-33 -- June 16, 1983
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
TEACHER AT STATE SCHOOL FOR DEAF AND BLIND OWNING CORPORATION DOING PRINTING BUSINESS WITH STATE AGENCIES
To: Mr. Edward M. Gobble, Teacher, Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created under the Code of Ethics were a corporation owned by a teacher at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind to do printing work for State agencies other than the School for the Deaf and the Blind. However, his corporation could do printing work for the School if the terms of the competitive bidding exemption in Section 112.313(12)(b), Florida Statutes, were met.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were a corporation owned by you, a teacher at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, to do printing work for State agencies?
Your question is answered in the negative, subject to the exception noted below.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are a classroom teacher at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in its Department of the Deaf. Your duties include subject matter instruction as well as extra-curricular activities such as class sponsorship. You also advise that you are the President and sole owner of a corporation which does printing work. You question whether your corporation may do business with agencies of State government.
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), Florida Statutes (1981).]
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).]
These provisions would prohibit you from being an officer or director of, or having any employment or contractual relationship with, a business entity which is selling goods or services to your "agency," but would not prohibit sales to other State agencies. The term "agency" is defined to mean
any state, regional, county, local, or municipal government entity of this state, whether executive, judicial, or legislative; any department, division, bureau, commission, authority, or political subdivision of this state therein; or any public school, community college, or state university. [Section 112.312(2), Florida Statutes (1981).]
Under this definition, we are of the opinion that your "agency" is the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, as this school is a "public school." The School, which is operated by a seven-member Board of Trustees as a body corporate under Section 242.331, Florida Statutes, therefore is a distinct "agency" within the Department of Education for purposes of the Code of Ethics.
However, the Code of Ethics would permit you to do business with the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind under certain circumstances. In particular, an exemption is provided where:
The business is awarded under a system of sealed, competitive bidding to the lowest or best bidder and:
1. The official or his spouse or child has in no way participated in the determination of the bid specifications or the determination of the lowest or best bidder;
2. The official or his spouse or child has in no way used or attempted to use his influence to persuade the agency or any personnel thereof to enter such a contract other than by the mere submission of the bid; and
3. The official, prior to or at the time of the submission of the bid, has filed a statement with the Department of State, if he is a state officer or employee, or with the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the county in which the agency has its principal office, if he is an officer or employee of a political subdivision, disclosing his, or his spouse's or child's, interest and the nature of the intended business. [Section 112.313(12)(b), Florida Statutes (1981).]
The disclosure required by this exemption, made on Commission on Ethics Form 3A, should be filed with the Department of State each time your corporation seeks to do business by sealed, competitive bid with the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were your corporation to do printing work for State agencies other than the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. In addition, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were your corporation to do business with the School through a sealed, competitive bidding process, so long as you comply with the terms of the exemption set forth above.