CEO 86-56 -- July 24, 1986
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SPECIAL TAXING DISTRICT TRUSTEE USING PERSONAL FUNDS TO PUBLICIZE DISTRICT PROJECT
To: Ms. Liza Adkison, Trustee, Twelve Oaks Special Taxing District, Tampa
A trustee of a special taxing district has not violated Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, by sending out an information letter, at her own time and expense, to residents of the district in an attempt to enlist their aid in renovating a median. The letter also contained information concerning the trustee's realty business. As all of the printing and mailing costs of the letter were paid by the trustee and no district money was spent, the trustee did not misuse her public position.
Did you, a trustee of a special taxing district, misuse your public position by using an information letter, printed and mailed with your own money and on your company letterhead, to notify residents within the district of a volunteer clean-up project and also to advertise your realty business?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are a Trustee of the Twelve Oaks Special Taxing District. A median within the District has been in a state of disrepair, and there has been talk for over four years of renovating it. You advise that no action was being taken on the median, so you decided to get the job done without waiting on the District to allocate the funds by enlisting volunteers from the community to do the work.
In order to notify the residents of the project, you printed and mailed information letters on your realty company letterhead at your own cost. You advise that no funds of the Taxing District were expended. The information in the letter included the median project plans and information relating to your association with a realty company. You are concerned that the letter may have violated the provision of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees which reads:
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).]
"Corruptly" is defined in Section 112.312(7), Florida Statutes, as "done with a wrongful intent and for the purpose of obtaining, or compensating or receiving compensation for, any benefit resulting from some act or omission of a public servant which is inconsistent with the proper performance of his public duties." Although intent is very difficult to determine without knowing the full facts, it does not appear that your actions were "corrupt" within the meaning of this definition.
The letter which was sent out to residents of the community was paid for by you, acting as a concerned citizen and not as a Trustee of the Special Taxing District. There was no cost to the Taxing District. The letterhead used was not that of the Taxing District, but of the realty company. Under these circumstances, it also does not appear that the letter constituted the use or attempted use of your official position or any property or resource within your trust as a District Trustee.
Accordingly, because no District funds were used in printing or mailing the letter and the costs were paid for by you, advertising your realty services in addition to notifying residents of the median clean-up project did not constitute a misuse of public position.