CEO 75-150 -- July 9, 1975
DISCLOSURE OF CONFLICT
NO CONFLICT TO DISCLOSE WHERE OFFICER'S VOTE DOES NOT INURE TO HIS BENEFIT
To: Dan P. McClure, Manatee County Commission, Bradenton
Prepared by: Jeff Trammel
Where a county commissioner votes to allow exploratory drilling by an oil company within the county, no voting conflict exists even though the commissioner leases land elsewhere in the county to the oil company for exploratory drilling purposes. The company's drilling on land other than that belonging to the commissioner does not inure to the commissioner's gain and therefore presents no conflict under s. 112.314(2), F. S. (1974 Supp.).
Am I, as a member of the Board of County Commissioners of Manatee County, required to file a disclosure of conflict of interest after voting to allow Amoco Production Co. to drill an exploratory well in the county while I hold a lease agreement with Amoco on land I own in another part of the county?
This question is answered in the negative.
The facts as you present them to the commission are as follows. On December 10, 1974, Amoco Production Company presented a petition to the Board of County Commissioners of Manatee County, requesting that a special exception be granted which would permit the drilling of an exploratory oil well upon certain lands located in Manatee County and owned by Mr. Hubert Rutland of St. Petersburg. The special exception was approved unanimously by the entire board. At the time that you voted on the issue, you owned land in Manatee County approximately 20 miles distant from the lands concerning which the special exception was requested. There was a lease agreement covering your land with Amoco Production Company granting to that company the right to conduct oil explorations upon your land in consideration for a rental of $1 per acre, per year. You did not have then nor do you now have any legal or equitable interest in the lands owned by Mr. Rutland for which the special exception was granted. You did not have then nor do you now have any ownership interest in Amoco Production Company.
In exercising your vote on matters before the Manatee County Commission, you were in accord with s. 112.314(2), F. S. (1974 Supp.), which states:
No public officer shall be prohibited from voting on any matter in his official capacity. However, when the matter being considered directly or indirectly inures to the public officer's particular private gain, as opposed to his private gain as a member of a special class or creates a conflict between such officer's private interests and his public duties he may abstain from voting on the matter and shall file a statement explaining the conflict with the appropriate officials.
The question presented is whether a conflict of interest existed in the situation you have related in the above facts.
We are of the opinion that the board's allowance of exploratory drilling did not "directly or indirectly inure to [your] particular private gain." The potential gain, i.e., the discovery of oil, would accrue to all landowners and perhaps even nonlandowners in Manatee County rather than to your particular private gain.
However, we would remind you of the option of abstention available to a voting public officer when he perceives the possibility of conflicting interests. A public officer is in full compliance with the provisions of the Code of Ethics if he opts to abstain to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
In summary, as there was no particular private gain to you in the resolution of this matter by the board, no disclosure of voting conflict of interest was required. Should such a situation arise, however, you must file a disclosure of such within 15 days both with the board and with the Commission on Ethics.