CEO 86-61 -- September 17, 1986
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
D.H.R.S. EMPLOYEE ENGAGED IN BUSINESS PROVIDING SERVICES TO ELDERLY AND DISABLED
To: Mr. Robert N. Bridger, Human Services Program Administrator, District Four-B, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a public assistance specialist with the Economic Services Program of a D.H.R.S. District to engage in a business providing services to elderly and disabled persons, as long as the business does not provide services for persons eligible for the services of the Department and as long as the business does not accept referrals from Department employees. Under these restrictions, the employee's business would not create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest or impede the discharge of his public duties in violation of Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest exist were a public assistance specialist with the Economic Services Program of a Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services District to engage in a business providing services to the elderly and disabled?
Your question is answered in the negative, subject to the restrictions noted below.
Through your letter of inquiry and additional correspondence, we have been advised that Mr. John D. Angelo is employed as a Public Assistance Specialist IV in the Medically Needy Unit of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services District Four-B Economic Services Program. In that position, his responsibilities include determining clients' eligibility for Medicaid based upon specific criteria.
You also have advised that the subject employee is the president of a firm offering financial, medical, and legal services to the elderly and disabled in their own homes. The services offered include assistance in filing income tax returns, Medicare, and other health insurance claims; developing a budget; paying bills; and planning an estate.
We previously have considered a very similar situation in CEO 84-56. There, another D.H.R.S. employee had begun a business to provide services to elderly and disabled persons. We concluded that the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would not prohibit the employee from engaging in such a business, provided that two conditions were met: first, that the business not accept clients who met current D.H.R.S. eligibility criteria; and secondly, that the business not accept referrals from D.H.R.S. employees. We also suggested that the employee work with his supervisor to notify Department employees who were in a position to receive inquiries concerning those services that the employee was involved in that particular business and that referrals should be made to other businesses providing the requested services.
We are of the opinion that the present inquiry is sufficiently similar to that of CEO 84-56 that the same reasoning should apply. Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the subject Public Assistance Specialist to engage in the business he contemplates as long as the above restrictions are met.