CEO 79-17 -- March 22, 1979
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER PROVIDING DENTAL SERVICES TO HEADSTART PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS AS PART OF PROJECT ADMINISTERED BY SCHOOL BOARD
To: Pete Holman, Superintendent of Schools, Bay County School District, Panama City
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
Reference is made to CEO 75-214, in which the commission advised that s. 112.313(3), F. S., of the Code of Ethics prohibits a school board member from providing dental treatment to school children under a school system program. Since that opinion was rendered, the Code of Ethics has been amended to provide several exemptions to the prohibition contained in s. 112.313(3), two of which exist when the business is transacted under a rotation system which includes all qualified suppliers of the goods or services within the city or county, and the total amount of the transaction does not exceed $500. Section 112.313(12)(a) and (f), F. S. 1977. In the instant case, only interested dentists participate in the Headstart Program, thus rendering inapplicable the first exemption cited above. However, the second exemption would be applicable to the petitioner dentist/school board member, provided he receives no more than $500 in compensation for his services within any given calendar or fiscal year.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were a school board member to provide dental care to Headstart Program participants as part of a program administered by the school board?
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Dr. Robert Young has provided dental care to Headstart Program participants for the past 12 years and would like to continue this practice, if allowed to do so by the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees. You also advise that Headstart is a federally funded and audited program administered through the Federal Projects Office of the Bay County School Board. Guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare determine the program criteria and specify preschool medical and dental checkups for participants. Federal funds are provided through Headstart to pay area practitioners for the preschool examinations and for follow-up work, when necessary.
You further advise that a fee schedule for services rendered is determined by the Federal Projects Administrator, working through the Bay County Dental Society. In 1978, a basic fee of $23 was charged, with additional fees for necessary follow-up work being assessed by the same method. Under the program, 500 participants are referred to interested area dentists on a rotating basis during the 6-week summer period. Dr. Young examined 18 of the 500 program participants during 1978 and received fees amounting to $787, an average of less than $44 per child.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides:
DOING BUSINESS WITH ONE'S AGENCY. -- No employee of an agency acting in his official capacity as a purchasing agent, or public officer acting in his official capacity, shall either directly or indirectly purchase, rent, or lease any realty, goods, or services for his own agency from any business entity of which he is or his spouse or child is an officer, partner, director, or proprietor or in which such officer or employee or his spouse or child, or any combination of them, has a material interest. Nor shall a public officer or employee, acting in a private capacity, rent, lease, or sell any realty, goods, or services to his own agency, if he is a state officer or employee, or to any political subdivision or any agency thereof, if he is serving as an officer or employee of that political subdivision. . . . [Section 112.313(3), F. S. 1977.]
We previously have advised that this provision of the Code of Ethics prohibits a school board member from providing dental treatment to school children under a school system program. See CEO 75-214. Since that opinion was rendered, the Code of Ethics has been amended to provide several exemptions to s. 112.313(3), two of which exist if:
(a) Within a city or county the business is transacted under a rotation system whereby the business transactions are rotated among all qualified suppliers of the goods or services within said city or county.
(f) The total amount of the subject transaction does not exceed $500. [Section 112.313(12)(a) and (f), F. S. 1977.]
Under the circumstances you have presented, it does not appear that the first exemption quoted above would apply. That exemption requires rotation among all qualified suppliers of the services within the county. You have indicated, however, that only interested dentists participate in the program, rather than all qualified dentists within the county.
The second exemption quoted above, for transactions not exceeding $500, would apply in this case. Please note that we have interpreted this provision to exempt a total of not more than $500 worth of business within any calendar or fiscal year. See CEO 77-182.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a school board member to provide dental care to Headstart Program participants as part of a program administered by the school board, so long as he does not receive more than $500 in compensation for his services within any given year.