CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY COMMISSIONER REAL ESTATE BROKER SELLING PROPERTY TO NONPROFIT CORPORATION OPERATING PUBLIC HOSPITAL
To: Mr. L. Michael Milbrath, County Attorney, Marion County
112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, the property owner is not doing business with or subject to the regulation of the county commission, and the single transaction will not result in a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were a county commissioner acting in his capacity as a real estate broker to sell property to a nonprofit corporation which has leased a public hospital from the county hospital district, where the county commission appoints the members of the hospital district board of trustees?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Mr. Roy Abshier, a member of the Marion County Board of County Commissioners, also is a real estate broker and has a non-exclusive contract from an owner of real property to sell the property to a suitable buyer. You also advise that the Commissioner has been approached about buying the subject property by a nonprofit corporation which has leased the local public hospital from the Marion County Hospital District.
Pursuant to a special act of the Legislature, the County Commission appoints the Board of Trustees of the Hospital District and is authorized to remove Trustees for cause. The board of directors of the nonprofit corporation is composed of the District Board of Trustees and eight citizens appointed by the Board of Trustees and approved by the County.
The County Commission also has the authority to levy a one mill tax for operational purposes and a one mill tax for bond indebtedness of the Hospital District. However, the County Commission has no authority to levy taxes for the benefit of the nonprofit corporation and has no authority to review proposed purchases of real property by the corporation. Presently the County has no contractual agreements with the corporation. The County is obliged under Chapter 154, Florida Statutes, to pay for the medical treatment of indigents in the County and does pay the Hospital District on an invoice basis only for such treatment.
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).]
In the present situation, the subject County Commissioner has a contractual relationship with the property owner who is attempting to sell his property. See CEO 81-75. Under the circumstances presented it does not appear that the property owner either is doing business with or is subject to the regulation of the County Commission. Nor does it appear that the Commissioner's contractual relationship with the property owner would present him with a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest or would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. In particular, we note that the County Commission has no authority to review the proposed purchase by the corporation and that this single transaction will not result in any continuing or frequently recurring relationship between the Commissioner and the corporation.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the subject County Commissioner to act as a real estate broker in the sale of this property to the nonprofit corporation which has leased the public hospital from the Hospital District.