CEO 88-57 -- September 8, 1988






To:     Mr. Steven L. Selph, Assistant County Attorney, Polk County (Bartow)




No prohibited conflict of interest would be created under Section 112.313(2) or (4), Florida Statutes, were a County Industrial Client Representative to receive a salary supplement of $5,000 from a private economic development council composed of 14 chambers of commerce from the county. As the intent in providing the supplement is to attract and retain a competent individual in the position, and because the County Division of Economic Development and the county-wide private council are pursuing the same goals and objectives, it does not appear that the supplement would be given to influence the official actions or judgment of the industrial client representative.




Would a prohibited conflict of interest exist were an industrial client representative for a county division of economic development to receive a payment constituting a salary supplement from a nonprofit corporation created by the chambers of commerce in the county and composed of individual business persons who may benefit indirectly from the efforts of the county employee?


Your question is answered in the negative.


In your letter of inquiry you advise that the Polk County Division of Economic Development has created the position of Industrial Client Representative to attract new business to Polk County. The Division of Economic Development staff provides services for and makes recommendations to a private, nonprofit council. The council is an organization formed by 14 chambers of commerce in the County for the purpose of providing a unified county-wide effort to promote tourism, international trade, motion picture and television activities, and business recruiting and retention. The council assists in the funding of projects recommended by the Division of Economic Development by generating community-wide corporate contributions.

The council has determined that it would be in its interest to supplement the Industrial Client Representative's compensation by $5,000 per year to ensure employment and retention of a capable person. The money for this supplement would be raised through corporate contributions. Although it is believed that the Representative would continue in his county capacity without the pay supplement, there is general concern that he could leave for private sector employment offering a higher salary once he has gained valuable experience and exposure in the community. The Division Director therefore is considering the offer by the Council of such a supplement.

The chamber of commerce members who comprise the directorship of the council are business persons who might realize an indirect benefit from any enhanced economic development resulting from the efforts of the Industrial Client Representative and Division of Economic Development in general. Therefore, you question whether the following provisions of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would prohibit the Industrial Client Representative from accepting the proposed salary supplement:


SOLICITATION OR ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS. -- No public officer, employee of an agency, or candidate for nomination or election shall solicit or accept anything of value to the recipient, including a gift, loan, reward, promise of future employment, favor, or service, based upon any understanding that the vote, official action, or judgment of the public officer, employee, or candidate would be influenced thereby. [Section 112.313(2), Florida Statutes (1987).]


UNAUTHORIZED COMPENSATION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency or his spouse or minor child shall, at any time, accept any compensation, payment, or thing of value when such public officer or employee knows, or, with the exercise of reasonable care, should know, that it was given to influence a vote or other action in which the officer or employee was expected to participate in his official capacity. [Section 112.313(4), Florida Statutes (1987).]


We do not believe either of these provisions would be violated in this situation.

It appears that the compensation supplement is not being offered for the purpose of influencing the Industrial Client Representative's actions, at least not in a manner that would be inconsistent with his duties. As the interests and goals of both entities appear to be mutual, evidenced in part by the close working relationship between the two, and as the interest in providing the supplemental compensation is merely to attract and retain a capable person in the position, it does not appear that the council would be offering the supplement to influence the Representative's official actions in order to benefit any particular business concerns, as opposed to the business community as a whole.

In previous opinion CEO 83-75 a police officer was given the free use of an apartment for one year by managers of a low-income housing project. The managers felt that having an officer and his family residing in the complex would help to deter vandalism and other criminal activity in the project. As there was no indication that the officer solicited the benefit or used his position to obtain it, or that the managers of the project who made the offer would be involved in any other activity which might require closer police scrutiny, no prohibited conflict of interest was created.

In the present situation, the benefit derived by the council in providing additional compensation to the Industrial Client Representative is in the retention of a capable person to do the job. No special gain appears to be sought. Although a member or members of the council may benefit indirectly from the efforts of the Division and the Industrial Client Representative, they are the types of gains the Division and the council were created to provide.

Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest exists were the council to provide a $5,000 salary supplement to the County Industrial Client Representative.