CEO 87-28 -- April 23, 1987
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY ANIMAL IMPOUND OFFICER BIDDING AT AUCTION
TO PURCHASE IMPOUNDED ANIMALS
To: Norman A. Palumbo, Jr., Legal Counsel, Pasco County Sheriff's Office
A prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a county animal impound officer to purchase at public auction animals which he had impounded or kept. Such a transaction would constitute a contractual relationship that would impede the full and faithful discharge of the employee's public duties, in violation of Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes. CEO's 84-85 and 83-24 are referenced.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were the county animal impound officer to purchase at public auction animals which he has impounded or kept?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Pasco County is governed by Chapter 24798, Laws of Florida (1947), as amended and codified in Section 7, 1-16, Pasco County Code, with regards to livestock running at large. According to the code, the Sheriff of Pasco County is required to appoint an animal impounding officer. It is the duty of this officer, the Sheriff, and all of the constables of the County to impound certain animals. They may demand fees for any impounding, service of notice, care and feeding, advertising, and disposing of such animals. If an impounded animal is not redeemed within a specified period of time, the Sheriff sells the animal at a public auction for cash to the highest bidder to pay the impounding charges on the animal. The animal is destroyed if it is not purchased at the sale. You ask whether a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the animal impound officer to bid at the sale of any animal which he has impounded or kept.
Although Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes, prohibits a public employee from selling goods to his own agency, that section does not prohibit a public employee from purchasing goods from his own agency. However, the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees also provides:
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).]
We previously have advised that public employees involved in the acquisition or disposition of public property are prohibited from purchasing that property by bid at a public auction. See CEO 84-85. In our opinion such a transaction constitutes a contractual relationship that would impede the full and faithful discharge of the employee's public duties. See CEO 83-24, in which we advised that a county employee who was involved in the acquisition of surplus property would be prohibited from purchasing it. In our view the possibility existed that such an employee was in a position to use information not available to members of the general public for his benefit. Additionally, we were concerned that employees involved in the acquisition process would be placed in a position where regard for their private interests in purchasing the surplus property could tend to lead to disregard of their public duties in those processes.
Accordingly, we are of the opinion that the county animal impounding officer is prohibited from purchasing at public auction animals which he has impounded or kept, because of his involvement in the acquisition process.