CEO 88-64 -- October 19, 1988
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT PARAMEDIC
EMPLOYED BY PRIVATE HELICOPTER AMBULANCE SERVICE
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest exists under Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, where a city fire department paramedic also is employed by the only private helicopter ambulance service within the City. As the helicopter ambulance service is the only one operating within the area, given the relatively strict policy guidelines regarding when helicopter air transport may be used, the paramedic's employment would not present a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest or impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. CEO 88-56 is referenced.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where a city fire department paramedic also is employed by the only helicopter ambulance service operating within the city?
Under the circumstances presented, your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that .... and .... are employed as Firefighter/Paramedics with the City of St. Petersburg Fire Department. You advise that both of these employees are involved in off-duty employment with the only helicopter ambulance service operating within the City. You also advise that reasonably strict policy guidelines are in place that would determine when helicopter air transport may be called in for assistance, but that this only occurs when ground transportation cannot reach the scene in a reasonable period of time.
According to the medical operations manual which is in effect throughout the County emergency medical services system, a helicopter ambulance should be summoned if it is estimated that transport by ground ambulance will exceed 20 minutes to a trauma center and the paramedic determines that the patient should be transported to a trauma center in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the manual. The guidelines provide certain absolute indications for transport to a trauma center and list other situations where the paramedic may judge that transportation to a trauma center is necessary.
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).]
In CEO 88-56 we found that this provision of the Code of Ethics would not prohibit City of Largo Fire Department paramedics from being employed by the only private ambulance company providing emergency ambulance transportation within the City. As we noted in that opinion, our concern is that the decision made by a paramedic of whether to allow the private ambulance company to transport a patient not be influenced by regard for the interests of the paramedic's private employer.
Under the circumstances presented here, we do not find that the City paramedics' authority to transport patients would be impeded significantly by the interests of their private employer. The helicopter ambulance service is the only service available in the area. Established protocols limit the paramedics' ability to call for helicopter air transport. We also note that this system is part of the same uniform, County-wide plan for emergency medical services transportation that was described in CEO 88-56.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest exists by virtue of the subject Firefighter/Paramedics' employment with the helicopter ambulance service.