CEO 92-51 -- December 3, 1992
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION MEMBER
EMPLOYED BY AMBULANCE SERVICE
To: Kenneth W. Buchman, City Attorney, City of Plant City
A prohibited conflict of interest would be created were an employee of an ambulance service to serve as a member of a county public transportation commission. Due to the transportation commission's permitting and other regulatory responsibilities regarding ambulance services, the employee/commissioner would hold employment with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of his agency contrary to Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, and the employment also would create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict or impediment to duty under Section 112.313(7)(a). CEO's 92-39, 90-30, 87-58, and 81-19 are referenced.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were an employee of an ambulance service operating in Hillsborough County to serve as a member of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
By your letter of inquiry, accompanying materials, and other materials sent to us on your behalf at the request of our staff, we are advised that George Collins, a City Commissioner of the City of Plant City and an employee of a local ambulance company (employee), is considering seeking appointment to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (HCPTC). The HCPTC, established by a special act of the Legislature, consists of seven members, with "one (1) member from the City Council of the City of Plant City," you relate. In addition, you advise that "[t]he Commission has the authority to supervise and regulate basic life support ambulances, although currently they do not regulate the rates of these services," and that "[t]heir rules provide that they 'reserve the right to regulate maximum rates.'" Further, you advise thatcertificate holders, such as the ambulance company with whom the employee works, are required to file their rates for services with the HCPTC. Also, from the materials accompanying your letter of inquiry, it is apparent that the HCPTC, through the special act creating it and through its rules, issues and controls certificates, permits, and licenses for ambulance services, including the one employing the employee, and their drivers; specifies vehicle standards and other standards for ambulance operations; specifies records to be kept by ambulance services; and performs other governmental functions. The employee is employed by the ambulance service as a public relations director.
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.]
The first clause of this section prohibits a public officer or a public employee from having or holding any employment or any contractual relationship with any business entity or with any agency which is subject to the regulation of his public agency or which is doing business with his public agency.
In analyzing your inquiry, we need not examine whether holding a position on the City Commission conflicts with serving on the HCPTC, because sitting as a member of a city commission constitutes the holding of an office rather than an employment or a contractual relationship. See CEO 92-39 and CEO 81-19. However, due to its permitting, licensing, and certifying functions regarding ambulance services, including the employee's employer, due to its specification of standards and procedures regarding ambulance companies, and due to its other functions listed in or apparent from your letter of inquiry and the other materials submitted by you or on your behalf, we find that the HCPTC (the employee's public agency) would be "regulating" the employee's ambulance service. See, for example, CEO 90-30 and CEO 87-58. Therefore, were the employee to be appointed as a member of the HCPTC, we find that he would be in violation of Section 112.313(7)(a) by virtue of being a public officer holding an employment or contractual relationship with a business entity (the ambulance company) which is subject to the regulation of his public agency.
In addition, since the employee/member at times would be faced with making decisions or voting on matters in which the interests of his private employer might very well differ from those of the general public whose duty it is to serve objectively in his public capacity (through certificate, permit, and license issuances or renewals), his service on the Transportation Commission while serving as an employee of an entity regulated by the Transportation Commission also would constitute a continuing or frequently recurring conflict or impediment to duty under the second clause or prohibition of Section 112.313(7)(a).
Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest would exist were the subject City Commissioner to serve as a member of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission while being employed by the ambulance company.