CEO 86-43 -- June 19, 1986
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST PRIVATELY PROVIDING PSYCHOTHERAPY TO FORMER INMATES
To: Mr. Jack Becker, Clinical Psychologist, Lawtey Correctional Institution, Department of Corrections
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a Department of Corrections clinical psychologist to provide private treatment to former inmates upon their leaving the institution, unless he uses his official position or any of the resources of the Department in the solicitation or counseling of these clients.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a Clinical Psychologist for the Department of Corrections, to continue to provide treatment to individuals on a private basis once they have left the institution?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you have advised that you are a Clinical Psychologist at the Lawtey Correctional Institution, Department of Corrections, and that your regular duties at the correctional facility include providing psychotherapy to interested inmates capable of responding to such treatment. You further advise that in many cases a released inmate and his family would benefit substantially from further treatment. Your clients would be those individuals who approached you with the idea of continuing therapy. You advise that in no way would you, even subtly, solicit such business from these individuals.
It does not appear from the information you gave us that this private therapy would conflict with your duties in the Department. The Code of Ethics provision concerned with such a conflict is as follows:
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 (1985).]
An earlier opinion of this Commission applying the above-quoted standard of conduct indicates that to the extent that such "private efforts would result in the successful resocialization of ex- offenders, insuring their continued rehabilitation," a private therapist would be "assisting the Department to fulfill its goals." See CEO 82-41. Thus, rather than a conflict of interest, we perceive there to be a unity of interest in such efforts.
Because the private therapy would take place without solicitation by you, neither would your counseling former inmates violate the following prohibition:
MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall corruptly use or attempt to use his official position or any property or resource which may be within his trust, or perform his official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself or others. This section shall not be construed to conflict with s. 104.31. [Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes (1985).]
As long as you avoid using your official position or any of the resources of the Department in the solicitation or counseling of these now-private clients, you would not violate this section of the Code of Ethics. See CEO 82-81.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to provide private psychotherapy services to former inmates of your institution.