CEO 84-117 -- November 29, 1984
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
BAIL BOND REGULATORY BOARD MEMBER SERVING AS OFFICER OF ASSOCIATION OF SURETY AGENTS
To: Mr. Daniel R. Amato, Member, Bail Bond Regulatory Board
A prohibited conflict of interest exists where a member of the Bail Bond Regulatory Board serves as President of the Florida Surety Agents Association. Section 112.313(11), Florida Statutes, prohibits a member of a State examining or licensing board from serving as an officer of a State professional or occupational association. Under Chapter 84-103, Laws of Florida, the Bail Bond Regulatory Board is authorized to act as an examining board for bail bondsmen. CEO's 79-15 and 77-2 are referenced.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where you, a member of the Bail Bond Regulatory Board, serve as president of the Florida Surety Agents Association?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you have been appointed to the Bail Bond Regulatory Board, which has been created by Chapter 84-103, Laws of Florida, within the Department of Insurance to assist the Department in the regulation of bail bondsmen and runners. You also advise that you currently are serving as president of the Florida Surety Agents Association.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
PROFESSIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING BOARD MEMBERS. -- No officer, director, or administrator of a Florida state, county, or regional professional or occupational organization or association, while holding such position, shall be eligible to serve as a member of a state examining or licensing board for the profession or occupation. [Section 112.313(11), Florida Statutes (1983).]
This is a question of first impression, as our previous interpretations of this prohibition have concerned boards which have the final responsibility for licensing the various members of a profession or occupation. The Bail Bond Regulatory Board, on the other hand, plays a role in the licensing of bail bondsmen and runners while the Department of Insurance remains responsible for licensing and final disciplinary decisions concerning bail bondsmen and runners under Chapter 84-103.
For example, under Sections 11 and 16 of the Act, the Board must approve application forms, certification courses, and examinations for bondsmen, as well as determine the minimal performance level for the examinations. However, the Department remains responsible for licensing bondsmen under Section 19. In addition, the Department retains its authority to make final decisions in disciplinary proceedings against licensees and to impose fines under Sections 28 and 33 of the Act. However, the Board reviews departmental investigations of complaints; if legal sufficiency is found, the Department is to prosecute the complaint. The Board conducts informal hearings on complaints and submits its recommendations to the Department, but if a formal hearing is held, the Board is given the opportunity to file exceptions to the hearing officer's recommendation with the Insurance Commissioner, who issues the final order.
In the past we have viewed Section 112.313(11), above, as prohibiting the conflict of interest which arises because the goals of a State licensing board and those of a private occupational organization, while not always conflicting, necessarily will be at variance upon occasion, as one body exists to protect the public and the other to protect the interests of its members. See CEO 79-15 and CEO 77-2. In our view, although the Bail Bond Regulatory Board does not exercise full authority over bondsmen, it does exercise sufficient authority in the examination of bondsmen to be considered an examining board for purposes of this prohibition. In addition, as noted above, the Board plays a substantial role in disciplining licensees. We recognize that under Section 3 of the Act the Insurance Commissioner is to consider the recommendations of the Florida Surety Agents Association when appointing two of the seven members of the Board. However, there is nothing in the law which would have the effect of an exemption from Section 112.313(11) for officers, directors, and administrators of the Association.
Accordingly, we find that you are prohibited from serving as President of the Florida Surety Agents Association while serving as a member of the Bail Bond Regulatory Board.