CEO 84-47 -- June 7, 1984
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY FIRE COMBAT DIVISION FIREFIGHTER ENGINEER OWNING AMBULANCE SERVICE
To: Mr. M. D. Gunn, Deputy Director, Fire Chief, City of Jacksonville, Department of Public Safety, Fire Protection Division
No prohibited conflict of interest exists under Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, where a firefighter engineer employed by a city fire protection division as a combat fireman owns a private ambulance service operating within the city. CEO's 84-19 and 81-76 are distinguished, as the duties of a combat fireman differ from those of a fireman in a rescue unit.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where a firefighter engineer employed by a city fire protection division as a combat fireman owns a private ambulance service operating within the city?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that as a result of our opinion CEO 84-19, you transferred the firefighter engineers who were the subjects of that opinion from the Rescue Division of the Department of Public Safety to the Fire Combat Division and assigned them to engine companies. Subsequently, the question has been asked as to whether the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would prohibit a combat fireman from owning an ambulance service operating within the City.
In CEO 84-19 we advised that Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, prohibited a firefighter engineer or lieutenant employed by the City Fire Protection Division as a member of a rescue unit from owning a private ambulance service operating within the City. Our opinion there was based on CEO 81-76, in which we found that a captain employed as a member of a rescue unit could not own and be an officer of a private ambulance service within the City, based upon the fact that as an employee in a rescue unit, the captain was in a position to make referrals to his private ambulance service on a frequently recurring basis and to obtain additional business for his company during the course of his duties in determining whether a patient was an emergency case or a nonemergency case. Firefighters in a rescue unit are responsible for evaluating the condition of the patient at the scene. If there is a life-threatening condition, the rescue unit transports the patient to the hospital. If not, the rescue personnel will provide necessary temporary medical services and then have the patient arrange for his own transportation to the hospital.
In a telephone conversation with our staff, you advised that the responsibilities of a combat fireman differ from those of a fireman in a rescue unit. Whenever there is an emergency call, the fire division dispatches its closest unit, whether that be a combat unit or a rescue unit, as there are emergency medical technicians on each fire unit. If a combat unit is dispatched, a rescue unit also will be dispatched. If the combat unit arrives at the scene first, those personnel are responsible for determining whether the patient's condition requires transportation or medical services. If the patient's condition is not serious, the combat personnel will cancel the rescue unit and perform whatever medical services are necessary. However, if the patient's condition is serious enough to warrant transportation, whether by rescue unit or by ambulance, the combat unit does not cancel the rescue unit. The emergency medical personnel on the rescue unit then are responsible for making the decision of whether the patient's condition requires transportation by that unit or by ambulance.
In our view, there is a significant difference between the responsibilities of a firefighter in a combat unit and a firefighter in a rescue unit. In a combat unit, the firefighter is not in a position to make referrals to a private ambulance service; nor is he in a position to obtain additional business for his ambulance company during the course of his duties in determining whether a patient was an emergency case or a nonemergency case. Such decisions are left to members of the rescue unit and are not made by the combat personnel.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest exists where a firefighter engineer in a fire combat unit owns an ambulance service.