CEO 90-53 -- July 27, 1990
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY COMMISSIONER USING PUBLIC FUNDS TO INSTITUTE PROGRAM ALLOWING CONSTITUENTS TO GIVE COMMENTS TO CITY OFFICIALS
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, would not prohibit a city commissioner from using public funds and personnel to institute a program allowing his constituents to direct comments to himself and various city officials, and to mail a letter to individuals notifying them of the program. Under the circumstances presented, it does not appear that such a use of public funds would be inconsistent with the commissioner's public duties. Nor does it appear that the commissioner would gain any special benefit from this use of public funds.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a city commissioner, to use public funds and personnel to visit various neighborhoods in order to hear citizens' comments and to mail a letter notifying constituents of your intent to do so?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you state that you wish to use budgeted public funds to mail a letter to constituents which states in relevant part:
Amongst the many duties which I perform as a City of Miami Commissioner, one of the most important is being accessible to you and responding to your needs.
On many occasions, you have had questions and/or comments regarding the services which you receive from the City.
During the last two and a half years that I have been serving as your Commissioner, I have been in close communications with many of you either by personal interviews at City Hall, neighborhood meetings or by appearing on radio or television to share with you pertinent City information.
I am formalizing this process with a program called "SERVICING MIAMI". During the remainder of 1990, my staff, various City officials, and myself will visit the different neighborhoods in order to hear your comments regarding City services and your suggestions to make our City a better place to live.
The program will be presented ______________________ from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at ___________________________________.
Your attendance and cooperation will permit me to continue my commitment in ensuring to you the best services that the City can offer.
Hope to see you there.
You state that the purpose of the mailing would be to establish a more efficient and effective means of communication between you and your constituents in order to enable you to more effectively accomplish your official duties.
The only provision of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees which arguably could apply to the use of public funds for the mailing and program is Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, which states:
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.
For purposes of this provision, the term "corruptly" is defined as follows:
'Corruptly' means done with a wrongful intent and for the purpose of obtaining, or compensating or receiving compensation for, any benefit resulting from some act or omission of a public servant which is inconsistent with the proper performance of his public duties. [Section 112.312(7), Florida Statutes.]
From the information you have provided, the use of public funds for this letter and program does not appear to be inconsistent with your public duties. Nor are we aware of any special benefit which you would derive from the mailing or the program. It appears from the letter that other City officials will be available at the public forums in addition to yourself. Although you may derive political benefits from instituting the program, we have not been made aware of any facts to indicate that the program has no public purpose but serves only to further your political campaign for reelection in November, 1991. Therefore, under the circumstances you describe, no violation of Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, would occur by the use of public funds for the mailing of the program regarding "Servicing Miami."
You also ask whether the mailing could be construed as a "political advertisement" as defined in Section 106.011(17), Florida Statutes. As we lack the authority to issue opinions regarding the interpretation of Chapter 106 and as we do not believe that it is necessary to reach this question in addressing the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, we decline to answer this portion of your question.
Accordingly, we find that no violation of Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, would occur were you to use budgeted public funds and personnel to issue a mailing and institute a program allowing constituents to give comments to yourself and other City officials.