CEO 93-7 -- April 22, 1993
VOTING CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY COMMISSIONER VOTING ON RENT INCREASE
FOR CITY-OWNED MOBILE HOME PARK LOCATED NEAR
MOBILE HOME PARK OWNED BY COMMISSIONER
To: Mr. Ed Kendrick, City Commissioner (Fort Meade)
No voting conflict of interest is created where a city commissioner votes to increase the rent at a city-owned mobile home park located approximately four miles from a mobile home park owned by the commissioner. It is remote and speculative to assume that by raising the rent at the city-owned park he would be able to justify charging a higher rent at his park, which is much smaller and has no amenities. Referenced are CEO's 93-4, 86-44, 85-87, and 85-77.
Are you, a city commissioner, prohibited from voting by Section 112.3143(3), Florida Statutes, on rent increases for a mobile home park owned by the city when you are also the owner of a mobile home park and may be able to justify raising rents at your park if the City raises theirs?
Your question is answered in the negative, under the circumstances presented.
Through your letter of inquiry and subsequent correspondence, we are advised that you serve as a member of the Fort Meade City Commission. You advise that the City owns a 251 lot rental mobile home park and that in September 1991 the Commission voted to institute a series of rent increases for the mobile home park. The rent increases have generated a legal dispute between the City and the park's residents, and you anticipate the possibility of matters coming before the City Commission to resolve the dispute. You also indicate that the City from time to time will determine future rental increases and other matters relating to the City park's residents.
You indicate that you own a mobile home park approximately four miles north of the City in the community of Homeland. Your park is significantly smaller than the City's, you advise, having only seven spaces and offering no amenities. If the City-owned park's rent is increased, you indicate, you may be able to justify increasing the rent at your park, because the rent from the City-owned park and other mobile home parks will be used as a comparison in accordance with Chapter 723, Florida Statutes. Thus, you question whether a voting conflict of interest is created by your votes on rent increases for the City-owned mobile home park.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
No county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in his official capacity upon any measure which would inure to his special private gain; which he knows would inure to the special private gain of any principal by whom he is retained or to the parent organization of subsidiary of a corporate principal by which he is retained, other than an agency as defined in s. 112.312(2); or which he knows would inure to the special private gain of a relative or business associate of the public officer. Such public officer shall, prior to the vote being taken, publicly state to the assembly the nature of his interest in the matter from which he is abstaining from voting and, within 15 days after the vote occurs, disclose the nature of his interest as a public record in a memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting, who shall incorporate the memorandum in the minutes. [Section 112.3143(3)(a), Florida Statutes (1991).]
This provision requires you to abstain from voting in certain situations, including when the measure being voted upon would inure to your special private gain.
We previously have recognized that any gain or loss to a public officer resulting from a particular measure may be too remote or speculative to constitute "special gain." Thus, in CEO 86-44, we advised that a city council member was not prohibited from voting on a site plan for a shopping center located adjacent to the florist store he owned and operated. Similarly, in CEO 85-77, we found that a school board member who owned a retail clothing business near the site of a proposed school district administrative complex was not prohibited from voting on matters relating to the use of the school district's property. See also CEO 85-87.
More recently, in CEO 93-4, we advised one of your fellow Commissioners that Section 112.3143(3), Florida Statutes, would not be violated were he to vote on rent increases at the City's mobile home park, where he proposed to build an r.v. park across the street from the City park. There, it was too remote and speculative to assume that he would be able to charge higher rents at his park if the City increased the rent at the City-owned park.
In your situation, although you have indicated that you may be able to justify charging higher rents at your mobile home park if the City's mobile home park raises its rent, it would appear to be premature as well as speculative to anticipate that your votes to raise rent at the City-owned mobile home park would inure to your special private gain. This is especially true where your park is located four miles away and appears to be much smaller and have no amenities, compared to those available at the City-owned mobile home park.
Accordingly, we find that you are not prohibited by Section 112.3143(3), Florida Statutes, from voting on rent increases at the City's 251 lot mobile home park.