CEO 84-101 -- October 18, 1984
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
HOSPITAL AUTHORITY MEMBER ON MEDICAL STAFF OF HOSPITAL
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a physician on the medical staff of a hospital to be elected to serve as a commissioner of the hospital authority which operates the hospital. As membership on a medical staff does not constitute an employment or contractual relationship with the hospital, neither Section 112.313(7) nor Section 112.313(10), Florida Statutes, would prohibit the physician from serving on the hospital authority.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a physician, to be elected to serve as a commissioner of a hospital authority which operates a hospital of whose medical staff you are a member?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are a candidate for election to the West Volusia Hospital Authority Board of Commissioners. You also advise that you are a physician who has been on the active medical staff of the hospital operated by the Authority, among others. You work from a private office, you advise, and your patients are given the opportunity to select the hospital of their choice. In addition, you have no contract with any of the hospitals for services or goods.
In a telephone conversation with our staff, you advised that appointments to the medical staff of the hospital are made by the Authority Board of Commissioners, based on the recommendations of the executive committee of the medical staff. You also advise that disciplinary proceedings usually are handled by each department of the hospital. However, if the problem is severe, the Authority Board may revoke staff privileges based upon proceedings before the medical staff executive committee and then before the medical staff as a whole.
In addition, you advised that you do not have a contractual relationship or employment with the hospital. You advised that the hospital has employed several physicians, primarily to work in the emergency room, and has contracted with other physicians to provide specialized services at the hospital.
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 (1983).]
This provision prohibits a public officer from having certain types of conflicting employment and contractual relationships. In a previous opinion, CEO 75-96, we advised that the predecessor to this statute would not prohibit a hospital board member from being on the medical staff of the hospital, as medical staff members were not employees of the hospital. Similarly, we are of the opinion that as a medical staff member you do not have a contractual relationship with the hospital.
Chapter 57-2085, Laws of Florida, as amended, creates the Hospital Authority and authorizes its Board of Commissioners to prescribe rules and regulations regarding the privileges of membership on the medical or dental staffs of the hospital. In addition, appointments to and revocations of membership on medical staffs of hospitals are governed by Sections 395.011 and 395.0115, Florida Statutes. Therefore, we conclude that your relationship to the hospital as a member of the medical staff, rather than being a contractual relationship, is one authorized by the laws governing the hospital and by the rules and regulations of the Authority. For this reason, we find that Section 112.313(7)(a), above, does not prohibit your serving on the Hospital Authority while retaining membership on the hospital's medical staff.
The Code of Ethics also provides:
EMPLOYEES HOLDING OFFICE. --
(a) No employee of a state agency or of a county, municipality, special taxing district, or other political subdivision of the state shall hold office as a member of the governing board, council, commission, or authority, by whatever name known, which is his employer while, at the same time, continuing as an employee of such employer.
(b) The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any person holding office in violation of such provisions on the effective date of this act. However, such a person shall surrender his conflicting employment prior to seeking reelection or accepting reappointment to office. [Section 112.313(10), Florida Statutes (1983).]
Based on CEO 75-96 and our reasoning above, we also conclude that as a member of the medical staff of the hospital you are not an employee of the Hospital Authority subject to the restriction of this provision.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to serve on the Hospital Authority while being a member of the medical staff of the hospital. In order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, however, we suggest that you consider abstaining from participation in matters relating to appointments to the medical staff of the hospital.