CEO 88-53 -- September 8, 1988
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY POLICE AND FIREFIGHTERS PENSION BOARD MEMBER
SERVING AS PRESIDENT OF FIREFIGHTERS UNION
To: Mr. James A. Rutherford, City Manager, City of Boca Raton
No prohibited conflict of interest exists under Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, where a city firefighter who has been elected as an employee representative to the city's police and firefighters pension board also serves as president of the firefighters union which is the collective bargaining representative for the firefighters of the city. The board does not collectively bargain with the union over pension benefits, and it does not appear that the union president is responsible for representing union members in pension matters or for assisting them through the pension process. With respect to matters where the union may disagree with a position of the board, there would appear to be no difference between the firefighter's serving as president of the union and his serving as a representative of the firefighters on the board.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where a city firefighter who has been elected as an employee representative to the city's police and firefighters pension board also serves as president of the firefighters union which is the collective bargaining representative for the firefighters in the city?
Under the circumstances presented, your question is answered in the negative.
We have been advised that .... is employed by the City of Boca Raton as a Captain in the Fire Department. He also serves as president of the union local which acts as collective bargaining representative for firefighters in the City. In addition, he recently was elected by the firefighters to serve as the firefighters' representative member on the Police and Firefighters Pension Board. The Board consists of two firefighters, two police officers, and four members appointed by the City Council.
The pension fund which is administered by the Board provides retirement and death benefits to employees of the City's police and fire departments, their spouses, and dependents. The Board typically reviews and approves pension and disability retirements, pays benefits to retirees and beneficiaries, selects investment managers, reviews investment performance, reviews and recommends to the City Council the adoption of ordinances pertaining to the pension fund, and otherwise provides for the administration of the pension fund. The votes of six trustees are required for the Board to take any action. The City bargains collectively with the union regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment, including retirement matters. However, the Board does not negotiate with the City or with the union. It appears that the subject firefighter is compensated by the union for his services as president.
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 (1987).]
This subsection shall not prohibit a public officer or employee from practicing in a particular profession or occupation when such practice by persons holding such public office or employment is required or permitted by law or ordinance. [Section 112.313(7)(b), Florida Statutes (1987).]
In a previous opinion, CEO 79-50, we advised that Section 112.313(7)(a) would prohibit a city employee who had been elected to serve on the city civil service board from also serving as president of a union which represented city employees. There, the collective bargaining agreement in effect between the city and its employees contemplated that employee grievances could be remedied either through the civil service board or by the grievance procedures set forth in the collective bargaining agreement, under which the union president was responsible for assisting the processing of employee grievances. We concluded that a prohibited conflict of interest was presented because the president was responsible for advising the employee as to which procedure to follow and for assisting them through the processing of the grievance, impeding the full and faithful discharge of his responsibilities as a member of the civil service board.
Here, it has not been suggested the union president is responsible for representing employees in pension matters or for assisting employees through the pension process which takes place before the Pension Board. In addition, it is clear that the Pension Board does not bargain with the union over pension benefits. With respect to other matters where the union may disagree with a position of the Pension Board, we see no difference between the subject employee's serving as president of the union and his simply serving as a representative of the firefighters on the Pension Board. As the City Code requires two firefighters to serve on the Pension Board, it is clear that the City contemplates that the interests of its firefighters will be represented on the Pension Board. Section 112.313(7)(b) operates to exempt any potential conflict of interest arising out of a firefighter serving on the Pension Board. See CEO 86-10. In essence, it does not appear that the subject firefighter's interests as president of the union present a substantial conflict with his responsibilities as an employee representative on the Pension Board.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest exists where the subject firefighter serves both as an employee representative to the City's Police and Firefighters Pension Board and as president of the firefighters union which is the collective bargaining representative for firefighters in the City.