CEO 86-70 -- September 17, 1986
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DEPARTMENT OF BANKING AND FINANCE PRESS SECRETARY FOR STATE COMPTROLLER ESTABLISHING COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTING FIRM
To: Mr. John Walker, Press Secretary, Office of the Comptroller, Department of Banking and Finance, Tallahassee
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the Press Secretary for the State Comptroller to establish a part-time, communications consulting firm to advise political candidates, as long as he does not work for anyone regulated by or doing business with the Department of Banking and Finance, and does not undertake to advise a candidate for the office of Comptroller.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, the Press Secretary for the State Comptroller, to establish a part-time, communications consulting firm to advise political candidates?
Under the circumstances presented, your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you serve as Press Secretary for the Comptroller and that your duties include arranging all interviews between the Comptroller and the media, locating information for members of the media, and overseeing a consumer information program. You state that you would like to establish a small, part-time communications consulting firm. The firm would advise candidates for public office on advertising, publicity, and campaign management. Most of your contacts will be made through a consultant in Washington, D.C.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
DOING BUSINESS WITH ONE'S AGENCY. -- No employee of an agency acting in his official capacity as a purchasing agent, or public officer acting in his official capacity, shall either directly or indirectly purchase, rent, or lease any realty, goods, or services for his own agency from any business entity of which he or his spouse or child is an officer, partner, director, or proprietor or in which such officer or employee or his spouse or child, or any combination of them, has a material interest. Nor shall a public officer or employee, acting in a private capacity, rent, lease, or sell any realty, goods, or services to his own agency, if he is a state officer or employee, or to any political subdivision or any agency thereof, if he is serving as an officer or employee of that political subdivision. The foregoing shall not apply to district offices maintained by legislators when such offices are located in the legislator's place of business. This subsection shall not affect or be construed to prohibit contracts entered into prior to:
(a) October 1, 1975.
(b) Qualification for elective office.
(c) Appointment to public office.
(d) Beginning public employment.
[Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes (1985).]
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).]
Section 112.313(3) prohibits you from acting in a private capacity to sell any services to your agency, the Department of Banking and Finance. Section 112.313(7)(a) prohibits you from having any employment or contractual relationship with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of or is doing business with the Department. You state that you will not work for anyone regulated by the Comptroller's Office or for anyone involved in the regulatory process. Therefore, as long as you do not work for any person who is doing business with the Department of Banking and Finance, neither of these provisions would be violated by your consulting work.
Section 112.313(7)(a) also prohibits you from having any employment or contractual relationship that would present a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of your public duties. In our view, unless you were to advise a candidate for the office of Comptroller, this provision would not preclude your establishing the consulting firm. We would caution you, however, to be aware that the Code of Ethics prohibits the disclosure or use of information gained through one's official position and not available to the general public to benefit oneself or another. See Section 112.313(8), Florida Statutes.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created under the Code of Ethics were you to establish and operate a communications consulting firm in accordance with the above limitations. In addition, we suggest that you review other provisions of law, such as Section 110.233, Florida Statutes, which may restrict your involvement in political campaigns.