CEO 86-46 -- June 19, 1986
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
D.H.R.S. EMPLOYEE WORKING AS INSTRUCTOR FOR CORPORATION PROVIDING EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM FOR YOUTHFUL OFFENDERS
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a human services program analyst for the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, whose primary responsibilities involve contract management for day care services, to be employed as an instructor by a corporation which provides an educational program for youthful offenders. Nor would such employment present a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest with the employee's function as a hearing officer involving transfer and revocation hearings for delinquent children in facilities or on aftercare.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a human services program analyst for the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, to be employed as an instructor by a corporation which provides an educational program for youthful offenders?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are employed as a Human Services Program Analyst to administer the child day care services program in District VII of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. Your basic responsibilities involve contract management for day care services from two agencies in the District.
In addition to your day care responsibilities, a small portion of your duties involves transfer and revocation hearings in two counties as an administrative hearing officer. In these situations delinquent children in facilities or on aftercare are accused of violating the terms of their supervision. Their counselor initiates a hearing process by requesting that the child be removed from supervision and placed in another program. As a hearing officer, your responsibility is to determine if the child violated the rules and whether the child should be placed in another program or be returned to the same program.
You also advise that you have been offered employment outside of your normal working hours by a private, for profit corporation which operates a series of training programs for children and adults. The particular program you would be involved with is directed at youth in the 12 through 18 year-old age group. Participants in the program are referred in a variety of ways, including through schools, parents, courts, and churches. The program consists of sixteen group meetings with twenty group members and an instructor. The meetings follow a structured meeting plan that explores many of the situations that youth confront.
As the corporation prefers to work with pre-delinquent individuals, you advise that it is possible that you could conduct a hearing as a hearing officer regarding a client who previously was a member of a group which you instructed in a private capacity. You and your supervisor agree that if this were to occur, you could excuse yourself from the hearing and allow another hearing officer to conduct the hearing.
Finally, in a telephone conversation with our staff, you advised that as a hearing officer you would not be in a position to refer an individual to the program operated by the corporation. In addition, you would not be confronted as a hearing officer with the decision of whether a group member in the program operated by the corporation should stay in that program.
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 (1985).]
This provision prohibits a public employee from having any employment with a business entity which is doing business with or is regulated by his agency, and prohibits him from having any employment which would create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest or which would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties.
It is clear that were you to accept employment as an instructor you would not be employed by a business entity which is doing business with or which is regulated by your agency. Nor do we find that your proposed employment would create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict or would impede the full and faithful discharge of your public duties. In this respect, we note that you would not be in a position to make referrals to your employer's program. Further, in the unlikely event that as a hearing officer you would be called upon to sit on a case involving a participant in a group you had instructed, we are of the opinion that the substitution of another hearing officer would be sufficient to remove any possibility of conflict arising out of that private employment.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to be employed as an instructor by the corporation in the educational program for youthful offenders.