CEO 87-41 -- June 11, 1987
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SCHOOL BOARD EMPLOYEE OWNING TRAVEL AGENCY
DOING BUSINESS WITH SCHOOL BOARD
To: Robert V. Duss, Attorney, Jacksonville
A prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a school board employee's travel agency to make travel arrangements for school board members and employees traveling on official business. While Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes, prohibits a public employee from doing business with his agency, Section 112.313(12)(f), Florida Statutes, creates an exception where the total amount of the subject transaction does not exceed $500. CEO's 75- 196 and 86-80 are referenced.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created under the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees were a school board employee's travel agency to solicit business from the school board as well as from other governmental agencies?
Your question is answered in the affirmative, subject to the exception noted below.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Mr. Jimmie M. Summerlin is employed by the Duval County School Board as Supervisor of Classified Personnel. You further advise that he is also part-owner of a travel agency which he and his wife recently formed and will operate as a franchise travel agency. The travel agency will sell airline tickets on behalf of major airlines and also may make reservations for hotels, cruises, and other accommodations. You question whether a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the travel agency to solicit business from the Duval County School Board, as well as other governmental agencies in Jacksonville.
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).]
This provision prohibits a public employee from acting in a private capacity to sell any services to his own agency or to the political subdivision which he serves. In previous opinions we have advised that one who owns a material interest in a business acts in a private capacity to sell when that business sells. See CEO 75-196. As a school district constitutes a political subdivision pursuant to Section 230.01, Florida Statutes, and as the definition of "agency" contained in Section 112.312(2), Florida Statutes, includes "any public school," a business owned by a school board employee seemingly is prohibited from selling any services to the school board which employs him or to any school within that district. Therefore, the School Board employee's travel agency would be prohibited from making travel arrangements for School Board members and employees traveling on official business. However, this prohibition would not apply to services rendered for other governmental entities.
Please note that the Code of Ethics contains several exceptions to the prohibition of Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes, including an exemption where:
The total of amount of the subject transaction does not exceed $500. See CEO 86-80.
We also would call your attention to the following provision of the Code of Ethics:
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).]
As we noted in CEO 87-2, solicitation of private travel business from School Board members and employees could constitute a violation of this provision.
Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the School Board employee's travel agency to make travel arrangements for School Board members and employees traveling on official business, except to the extent that the total amount of a particular transaction does not exceed $500.