CEO 76-99 -- May 17, 1976
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY ATTORNEY'S FIRM REPRESENTING LAND OWNERS IN EMINENT DOMAIN PROCEEDINGS
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Gene Rhodes
No provision of the Code of Ethics would prohibit a county attorney's law firm from representing individual property owners in connection with eminent domain acquisition by the State Department of Transportation where no county funds are involved, even though in his capacity as county attorney a member of the firm occasionally has represented DOT in eminent domain proceedings when the county's secondary road funds were utilized. Attention is directed to Florida Statute s. 112.313(8)(1975) relating to the disclosure or use of certain information, however. The Ethics Commission lacks authority to advise one as to his ethical responsibilities as an attorney; questions of this nature may be directed to The Florida Bar.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were my firm, having previously represented the Florida Department of Transportation in eminent domain proceedings, to now represent individual property owners in eminent domain proceedings initiated by the Department of Transportation (DOT)?
This question is answered in the negative.
Your letter of inquiry advises us that your law firm has for a number of years acted as general counsel for the county commission. In that capacity you have occasionally represented the DOT in eminent domain proceedings for the purpose of obtaining right-of-way when the county's secondary road funds were involved. Your firm now wishes to represent individual property owners in connection with eminent domain acquisition by DOT. This acquisition of right-of-way is for the purpose of extending I-75 and will be paid for out of federal and state funds with no county funds involved. The county will not be a party to said litigation.
There is no provision in the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees which would prohibit you from representing private property owners in suits brought by DOT; however, we remind you of that provision in the Code of Ethics which states:
DISCLOSURE OR USE OF CERTAIN INFORMATION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall disclose or use information not available to members of the general public and gained by reason of his official position for his personal gain or benefit or for the personal gain or benefit of any other person or business entity. [Fla. Stat. s. 112.313(8)(1975).]
This commission lacks authority to advise you as to your ethical responsibilities as a member of The Florida Bar. Questions of this nature may be directed to the Professional Ethics Committee, The Florida Bar, Tallahassee, Florida 32304.