CEO 83-35 -- June 16, 1983
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY FIRE PREVENTION OFFICER SERVING AS REGIONAL COORDINATOR FOR NONPROFIT FIRE PREVENTION ORGANIZATION
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a city fire prevention officer to serve as a regional coordinator for a private, nonprofit organization involved in fire prevention and life safety educational programs. Rather, it appears that the goals and objectives of the organization present a unity of interests with the employee's public responsibilities in coordinating promotional and educational work in fire safety.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were a city fire prevention officer to serve as a regional coordinator for a private, nonprofit organization involved in fire prevention and life safety educational programs?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Mr. Robin Guttman is employed in the City of Hollywood Fire Department as a Fire Prevention Officer II. In that position he is responsible for inspecting buildings and structures for the detection and removal of fire hazards, for coordinating promotional and educational work in fire safety, and for investigating fires to determine their cause, origin, and loss.
In addition, you advise that he has been offered a position as a regional coordinator for a nationwide, private, nonprofit organization which has been established to promote and develop programs and educational opportunities relating to fire prevention and life safety. As regional coordinator, he would be responsible for choosing State coordinators, supervising individual State programs, and evaluating applications for grants from the organization to State and local programs. He has advised that these responsibilities would be pursued on his personal time.
In a telephone conversation with our staff, the subject employee advised that he would receive no compensation for his service as regional coordinator, although he would be reimbursed for his expenses. In addition, if he were to act as a lecturer in behalf of the organization, the organization would pay him an honorarium. He also advised that although the organization has not provided any grants yet, it is anticipated that the organization would be able to provide grant funds to State and local organizations in order to supplement their public education and fire prevention programs, as well as to sponsor attendance at fire prevention and education seminars.
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).]
Initially, we question whether the employee's relationship with the fire prevention education organization would constitute an employment or contractual relationship, as he would not receive any compensation for his services as regional coordinator. See CEO 80-45, in which we advised that a public employee serving as a director of, and editor of a magazine published by, a nonprofit corporation without compensation did not have an employment or contractual relationship with that corporation. However, even if the reimbursement for his expenses and the honoraria he might receive for serving as a lecturer for the organization were sufficient to indicate an employment or contractual relationship, we find that the employee's service as a regional coordinator would not result in a conflict of interest prohibited by the above-quoted section.
Rather than constituting a conflict of interest, we perceive a unity of interests between the purposes of the organization and the employee's public responsibilities in coordinating promotional and educational work in fire safety. So long as the employee's private activities would be pursued on his personal time, it does not appear that regard for his private interests would tend to lead to disregard of his public duties; instead, it appears that the activities of the nonprofit organization might enhance the promotional and educational work of the Fire Department in fire safety. If the City were to apply for a grant from the organization, the organization might prefer that its regional coordinator not pass on a grant request from his City, but such an application would not conflict with the employee's public duties.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict would be created were the subject Fire Prevention Officer to accept a position as regional coordinator for the nonprofit organization.