CEO 96-3 -- January 29, 1996
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT ENGINEER EMPLOYED IN ONE DISTRICT
DEPARTMENT PRIVATELY PREPARING AND PRESENTING A SITE
PLAN TO DRAINAGE PERMIT DEPARTMENT OF THE DISTRICT
To: (Name withheld at the person=s request.)
A prohibited conflict of interest would be created were an engineer employed in one department of a water management district to prepare a site plan for presentation to another department of the district, which issues permits. Under Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, the engineer would have a contractual or employment relationship with a business entity subject to the regulation of his agency.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created under Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, were you, an engineer employed by a Water Management District, to accept outside employment preparing a site plan which would require you to assist in obtaining a drainage permit from the District?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry and conversation with our staff, you advise that you are employed as a Professional Engineer III by the St. Johns Water Management District ("District"). The District's organizational charts indicate that it is organized into seven departments, two of which are the Department of Resource Management and the Department of Water Resources. You advise that you are assigned to the Department of Water Resources, which is further divided into six divisions. You are assigned to the Design Section within the Division of Engineering, you advise.
Your written Position Description, which you also provided at our request, indicates that among your responsibilities are the following:
1) Developing and reviewing District construction plans and detailed designs for the District's wetland restoration projects;
2) Directing and supervising the work of your section's technicians and engineers in support of design projects;
3) Developing and reviewing the District's construction specifications;
4) Performing preliminary work for the development of the District's construction plans, including coordinating your efforts with the District's other departments, including the Department of Operations, and performing field work and data collection; and
5) Providing such support as problem resolution and design changes, as needed, for the District's construction services.
None of these responsibilities entail working on anything but District construction projects, you advise.
You advise that you would like to accept outside employment preparing a site plan. This work also would necessitate obtaining a District drainage permit, which would require you to make a presentation of the site plan to the Department of Resource Management, as indicated above, an entirely separate Department from the one to which you are assigned. Thereafter, the Department of Resource Management would make its recommendation to the District's Board regarding whether or not to approve the District's issuance of the permit.
Relevant to your inquiry is the following provision of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees:
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 or she 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 or her private interests and the performance of his or her public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his or her public duties. [Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes.]
This provision prohibits you from having or holding any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity or agency which is doing business with or is regulated by your agency. It also prohibits you from having an employment or contractual relationship which creates a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between your private interests and the performance of your public duties, or which impedes the full and faithful discharge of your public duties. For purposes of Section 112.313(7)(a), "agency" also is defined in Section 112.312(2), Florida Statutes, as follows:
'Agency' means any state, regional, county, local or municipal government entity of this state, whether executive, judicial, or legislative; any department, division, bureau, commission, authority, or political subdivision of this state therein; or any public school, community college, or state university.
Because we find that the St. Johns Water Management District is a political subdivision of this State created by Section 373.069(1)(c), Florida Statutes, we are of the opinion that the Water Management District is your "agency."
As it appears that you would be employed directly by the business entity which is seeking the drainage permit, we find that you would have a contractual or employment relationship with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of the District, as we have previously advised that the authority granted Water Management Districts under Chapter 373, Florida Statutes, is a regulatory power. See CEO 78-59 and CEO 84-14. Therefore, we find that you would have a prohibited contractual or employment relationship with a business entity subject to the jurisdiction of your agency contrary to the prohibitions of Section 112.313(7)(a).
Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest would exist under Section 112.313(7)(a) were you to enter into an employment or contractual relationship with the engineering firm for purposes of preparing a site plan to assist in obtaining a drainage permit from the District.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on January 25, 1996, and RENDERED this 29th day of January, 1996.
William J. Rish