CEO 77-4 -- February 1, 1977
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DIRECTOR OF AGENCY WHICH REGULATES CONDOMINIUMS ATTENDING LAW FIRM DISCUSSIONS RELATING TO CONDOMINIUM LAW
To: Richard C. Booth, Director, Division of Florida Land Sales and Condominiums, Tallahassee
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
There is no provision in the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees which would prohibit the director of a state agency which regulates the condominium industry from attending periodic discussions of condominium law sponsored by a law firm. It should be noted, however, that, in its statement of legislative intent and declaration of policy, the code provides that "[i]t is essential to the proper conduct and operation of government that public officials be independent and impartial . . . ," and that public officials must recognize "that promoting the public interest and maintaining the respect of the people in their government must be of foremost concern." The petitioner therefore is urged to exercise care to see that the impartiality demanded of his public position is not threatened by participation in the above-described discussions.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest exist were I, the director of an agency which regulates the condominium industry, to attend periodic discussions sponsored by a law firm concerning condominium law?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of request you have stated that you are the Director of the Division of Florida Land Sales and Condominiums, which has the responsibility of regulating the condominium industry. You are currently making efforts to familiarize yourself with the condominium act and related case law. In a telephone conversation with our staff, you stated that under the law condominium developers are required to file with the division a disclosure statement and copies of prospectuses and that the division has the duty to enforce the condominium act by cease and desist orders or actions in court and to answer inquiries concerning its application. You have been invited to attend discussion sessions concerning condominium law which are sponsored by a Miami Beach law firm and which are held every few weeks in its offices on Saturdays. In the past the law firm has represented several condominium associations before an advisory board of the division in matters concerning complaints between developers and associations. As director of the division, you decide whether to accept the recommendations of the advisory board. You have stated that you will travel at state expense and would be willing to attend the discussions as an observer rather than as a participant.
There is no provision under s. 112.313, F. S. 1975, the Standards of Conduct for Public Officers and Employees, which would prohibit the situation you describe. Accordingly, we find no prohibited conflict of interest based on the facts before us.
We would point out, however, that, in its statement of legislative intent and declaration of policy, the Code of Ethics provides that "[i]t is essential to the proper conduct and operation of government that public officials be independent and impartial . . . ." Section 112.311(1), F. S. 1975. Subsection (6) of that section further declares it to be a matter of state policy that "public officers and employees, state and local, are agents of the people and hold their positions for the benefit of the public" and
are bound to observe, in their official acts, the highest standards of ethics consistent with this code and the advisory opinions rendered with respect hereto regardless of personal considerations, recognizing that promoting the public interest and maintaining the respect of the people in their government must be of foremost concern.
While we realize the benefits to be gained from your attending the above-described discussion sessions, we would urge that you exercise care to see that the impartiality demanded of your position is not threatened by such participation.