CEO 89-43 -- September 14, 1989
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DEPUTY SHERIFF EMPLOYED AS
To: Wayne Alexander, Deputy Sheriff, Charlotte County Sheriff's Office (Punta Gorda)
A Deputy Sheriff may not be employed as a private investigator as his access to confidential information contained in investigative files of the Sheriff's Department, his relationship to personnel within the Sheriff's Office, and his relationship with other law enforcement agencies could create a continuing and frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and public duties prohibited by Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes. CEO 83-46 is referenced.
May you, a deputy sheriff, be employed as a private investigator for civil cases, criminal cases, missing persons, civil process, and pre-employment applications without violating the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry, you advise that you are a Deputy Sheriff with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office in Punta Gorda. You wish to become self-employed as a private investigator while continuing your employment with the Sheriff's Office. As a private investigator, you would investigate matters concerning civil and criminal cases, missing persons, civil process, and pre-employment applications for businesses.
We are of the opinion that Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, would prohibit you from becoming self-employed as a private investigator while you also are a Deputy Sheriff. That statutory section states:
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.
In CEO 83-46, we determined that this provision prohibited a police officer from working as an investigator for a private attorney in civil and criminal cases, even though he did not plan to work within his city. We felt that the officer's access to confidential information, the anticipated effect of the use of such information on the officer's relationships with other law enforcement personnel, as well as the police department's relationship with other law enforcement agencies, would create a continuing and frequently recurring conflict between the officer's public duties and private interests and would impede him in the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. We also noted that the potential existed for the officer to violate Section 112.313(8), Florida Statutes, which states:
DISCLOSURE OR USE OF CERTAIN INFORMATION.--No public officer or employee of an agency shall disclose or use information not available to members of the general public and gained by reason of his official position for his personal gain or benefit or for the personal gain or benefit of any other person or business entity.
We are of the opinion that the same factors discussed in CEO 83-46 would prohibit you from being employed both as a deputy sheriff and as a private investigator. In making this determination, we are not implying that you intentionally would misuse your public position or resources within your trust as a public officer. As in past opinions, we find that the dual employment you propose could place you in a situation which "tempts dishonor," and such a situation is sufficient to create a prohibited conflict of interest within the intent of Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes. See CEO 83-46.
Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to remain a deputy sheriff while becoming self-employed as a private investigator for the purpose of investigating civil and criminal cases, civil process, missing persons, and pre-employment applications.