CEO 87-65 -- September 16, 1987
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY POLICE AND FIRE DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES
EMPLOYED BY COMPUTER CONSULTING FIRM DOING BUSINESS WITH CITY
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest exists where city fire and police employees privately are employed by a computer consulting firm which is developing a police information system for the city. Although Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, prohibits a public employee from being employed by a business entity which is doing business with his agency, Section 112.313(12)(f), Florida Statutes, exempts transactions which do not exceed $500 in amount. Here, the computer consulting company is receiving no payment for its work in developing the police information system for the city.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where city fire and police employees privately are employed by a computer consulting firm which is developing a police information system for the city?
Under the circumstances presented, your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that .... serves as Fire Chief for the City of Largo, .... serves as Fire/EMS Communications Supervisor for the City, and .... serves as Police Sergeant/Records Supervisor for the City. You also advise that in 1984 a computer consulting company contracted with the City to develop programming for a computer-aided dispatch system which was to operate in conjunction with the County's dispatch system. The work was completed in 1985, and the company was paid for its work.
In November of 1986, the City again engaged the company to prepare and provide software and consultant services for the development of a police information system. Under the agreement between the company and the police department, the company receives no payment for its work, but the City agrees to cooperate in developing a model package for the company's purposes and agrees to refrain from disclosing or copying any portion of the software. You also advise that the City and the County will be considering the purchase of computer hardware from a manufacturing company for which the consulting company apparently is a sales representative.
In 1985, after work had been completed on the police computer- aided dispatch system, the Fire Chief requested permission to work for the computer consulting company. Permission was granted, and since that time the Fire Chief has used vacation time to demonstrate the company's computer-aided fire dispatch system outside of the County. In October of 1985, the Fire/EMS Communications Supervisor began a similar relationship with the computer consulting company, demonstrating and installing the system. In April of 1987, the Police Sergeant/Records Supervisor requested and was given permission for off-duty employment with the consulting company to demonstrate and teach the use of the company's police information system.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees 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 being employed by a business entity which is doing business with his agency. We are of the opinion that the consulting company is doing business with the police department, on the basis of what appears to be a legally enforceable agreement between the company and the police department. See CEO 80-87 and CEO 82-50. We note that with respect to the Fire Chief and the Fire/EMS Communications Supervisor, this agreement apparently is not with their "agency," but rather is with the police department. See the definition of the term "agency" contained in Section 112.312(2), Florida Statutes.
Nevertheless, with respect to all three employees we find that the situation falls within the exemption provided in Section 112.313(12)(f), Florida Statutes. That subsection exempts transactions otherwise violative of Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, where "[t]he total amount of the subject transaction does not exceed $500." The exemption applies because the consulting company is receiving no consideration in the form of money or property for its work in developing the police information system for the City. With respect to any future business between the company and the City, please note that Section 112.313(12)(b), Florida Statutes, creates an exemption where business is awarded under a system of sealed, competitive bidding and certain other requirements are met.
Accordingly, we find that under the circumstances presented no prohibited conflict of interest exists where the subject Fire Chief, Fire/EMS Communications Supervisor, and Police Sergeant/Records Supervisor are employed during their off-duty time by a computer consulting company which is doing business with the City. We would suggest that the subject employees be cautioned against the use of any City property or resources in connection with their private employment, in order to avoid a misuse of their public positions which would violate Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes.