CEO 86-66 -- September 17, 1986
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY BOARD MEMBER PROVIDING REPORTING SERVICES REGARDING ACTIONS OF PUBLIC AGENCIES
To: Mr. Daniel S. McIntyre, County Attorney, St. Lucie County, Ft. Pierce
No prohibited conflict of interest exists as a general matter where an individual who is a member of several county boards provides reporting services concerning the actions of various county and municipal agencies to clients interested in the actions of those agencies. However, the board member should be aware that several provisions of the Code of Ethics, including Sections 112.313(4), 112.313(7)(a), 112.313(8), and 112.3143(3), Florida Statutes, may limit her activities and the clientele which she serves.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where an individual who is a member of several county boards provides reporting services concerning the actions of various county and municipal agencies to clients interested in the actions of those agencies?
Your question is answered in the negative.
Through your letter of inquiry and a telephone conversation with our staff we are advised that .... has been appointed by the St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners to serve as a member of the County Code Enforcement Board, Emergency Medical Services Board, and Hospital Indigent Board. The appointee also serves as a member of the local expressway authority.
You further advise that the appointee is the sole owner of a business which provides summaries, minutes, copies of public records, and other public information concerning the meetings of various County and municipal agencies to interested persons, such as engineers, planners, developers, attorneys, appraisers, and realtors. In order to provide this information, the Board member personally attends the meetings, takes notes of what transpires, and obtains copies of any supporting documents. Clients of the Board member indicate the agency whose meeting they want summarized. The appointee currently does not provide information concerning the meetings of the County boards of which she is a member, although she does provide reporting coverage of expressway authority meetings.
We are of the opinion that as a general matter the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would not prohibit the subject Board member from providing these reporting services. The Code of Ethics 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 officer from having any employment or contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of public duties. The term "conflict of interest" is defined to mean "a situation in which regard for a private interest tends to lead to disregard of a public duty or interest." Section 112.312(6), Florida Statutes. We are of the view that there is not a sufficient connection between the reporting services provided by the Board member and her responsibilities as a member of these various boards to enable us to conclude that simply providing the reporting services described would present her with a conflict of interest.
This is not to say, however, that her activities or particular clients would never present a problem under the Code of Ethics. Her work for a particular client might be prohibited by Section 112.313(7)(a) if that client were regulated by or doing business with one of the Boards on which she serves. Similarly, it is possible that her services might be sought by a client in order to influence a vote in which she was expected to participate in her official capacity. In that case, the receipt of compensation for those services would violate the following provision of the Code of Ethics:
UNAUTHORIZED COMPENSATION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency or his spouse or minor child shall, at any time, accept any compensation, payment, or thing of value when such public officer or employee knows, or, with the exercise of reasonable care, should know, that it was given to influence a vote or other action in which the officer or employee was expected to participate in his official capacity. [Section 112.313(4), Florida Statutes (1985).]
The Board member should be cautioned against using her position to obtain information not available to the general public, because of the following provision of the Code of Ethics:
DISCLOSURE OR USE OF CERTAIN INFORMATION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall disclose or use information not available to members of the general public and gained by reason of his official position for his personal gain or benefit or for the personal gain or benefit of any other person or business entity. [Section 112.313(8), Florida Statutes (1985).]
Finally, if a matter comes before a board on which she serves which would affect the interests of a client, she may be prohibited from voting and be required to make appropriate disclosures by Section 112.3143(3), Florida Statutes, which provides:
No county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in his official capacity upon any measure which inures to his special private gain or shall knowingly vote in his official capacity upon any measure which inures to the special gain of any principal, other than an agency as defined in s. 112.312(2), by whom he is retained. Such public officer shall, prior to the vote being taken, publicly state to the assembly the nature of his interest in the matter from which he is abstaining from voting and, within 15 days after the vote occurs, disclose the nature of his interest as a public record in a memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting, who shall incorporate the memorandum in the minutes. However, a commissioner of a community redevelopment agency created or designated pursuant to s. 163.356 or s. 163.357 or an officer of an independent special tax district elected on a one- acre, one-vote basis is not prohibited from voting.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest is created as a general matter by virtue of the subject board member's providing reporting services of County and municipal agency meetings for various clients. However, as noted above, the Board member should be aware that several provisions of the Code of Ethics may limit her activities and the clientele which she serves.