CEO 83-79 -- October 27, 1983
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY POLICE CHIEF SOLICITING DONATIONS OF FUNDS TO ESTABLISH MOUNTED POLICE PATROL
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a City Chief of Police to solicit the donation of funds to enable the Police Department to establish a mounted patrol. Where the mounted patrol and the solicitation of funds has been approved by the City Commission, neither Section 112.313(2) nor Section 112.313(4), Florida Statutes, would be violated by such solicitation.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a City Chief of Police, to solicit the donation of funds to enable the Police Department to establish a mounted patrol which has been approved by the City Commission?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that recently the Pompano Beach City Commission approved the concept of a mounted patrol within its Police Department. As there currently are no funds available to establish the mounted police patrol, one of the Commission members has recommended that local businesses be solicited to fund the program.
In a telephone conversation with our staff, you advised that you would be responsible for the solicitation of funds if approved by the City Commission. You also advised that the solicitation would be handled in the usual ways, such as by letters, newspaper ads, and personal contacts. Finally, you advise that you have reservations about the propriety of the solicitation of funds for a project of this type. In particular, you believe that this would obligate the Department to a limited section of the community, the business community, rather than allowing the mounted patrol to provide services to the entire city.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
SOLICITATION OR ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS. -- No public officer, employee of an agency, or candidate for nomination or election shall solicit or accept anything of value to the recipient, including a gift, loan, reward, promise of future employment, favor, or service, based upon any understanding that the vote, official action, or judgment of the public officer, employee, or candidate would be influenced thereby. [Section 112.313(2), Florida Statutes (Supp. 1982).]
UNAUTHORIZED COMPENSATION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency or his spouse or minor child shall, at any time, accept any compensation, payment, or thing of value when such public officer or employee knows, or, with the exercise of reasonable care, should know, that it was given to influence a vote or other action in which the officer or employee was expected to participate in his official capacity. [Section 112.313(4), Florida Statutes (1981).]
The first of these provisions prohibits a public officer from soliciting or accepting anything of value to the recipient, based upon the understanding that his official action would be influenced. However, under the circumstances you have presented, it does not appear that the solicitation for the establishment of the mounted patrol would be made with the understanding that your official action or judgment would be influenced.
Although Section 112.313(4) does not prohibit the acceptance of gifts with the understanding that one's official action would be influenced, it does prohibit the acceptance of anything of value when the public officer knows, or with the exercise of reasonable care should know, that it was given to influence some official action in which he is expected to participate. Similarly, we are of the opinion that this provision would not be violated under the circumstances presented.
In particular, we note that it is the City Commission which has approved a mounted patrol within the Police Department and which will have approved of the solicitation of businesses to fund the patrol. Given this widely announced public purpose, we find no reason to believe that such donations would be given for the purpose of influencing the discharge of your official duties, as opposed to the stated purpose of assisting the City to develop a mounted police patrol.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to solicit funds from local businesses for the purpose of establishing a mounted police patrol within the Police Department. In order to minimize any possible appearance that the Police Department would be obligated particularly to the business community for its assistance in establishing the mounted patrol, we suggest that the City Commission consider the solicitation of funds from the entire community, especially if appeals through the media are used.