CEO 80-29 -- April 17, 1980
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY COUNCILMAN SERVING AS VOLUNTEER FIREMAN
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
Reference is made to CEO's 76-109, 76-187, and 78-28, in which it was found that city commissioners who serve for compensation as volunteer firemen do so in violation of s. 112.313(7)(a) and (10), F. S. However, when members of a volunteer fire corporation are not paid for services as volunteer firemen, they are not deemed to be employees either of the city or of the nonprofit corporation, despite their receipt of some nonmonetary benefits. Accordingly, no prohibited conflict of interest exists when a city councilman is a member of a nonprofit volunteer fire corporation which assists the city's fire department under a contract which does not provide for direct payment to the volunteer firemen.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist when a city councilman is a member of a nonprofit, volunteer fire corporation which assists the city's fire department under a contract which does not provide salary or wages to the volunteer firemen?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that volunteer firemen in the City of Indian Harbour Beach have organized in the form of a nonprofit corporation which receives approximately $11,000 annually from the city and which raises approximately $6,000 in additional funds through fund drives and donations. The city itself provides both medical and life insurance to the individual volunteer firemen to cover injuries or death in the line of duty, you advise, and the city also provides space in city hall for the firemen to use as a recreation room. This room is for the use only of the firemen and is not available to other members of the public. In addition, you advise that the city provides to each of the firemen all necessary uniforms and other equipment actually used in the fighting of fires. Thus, the volunteer firemen receive no cash payment from the city for their services.
In a previous advisory opinion, CEO 76-109, we advised that a city commissioner who serves as a volunteer fireman for the city and receives $250 annually from the fire department's budget would violate s. 112.313(7)(a) and (10), F. S. The first of these provisions prohibits a public officer from being employed by an agency or a business entity which either is doing business with or is subject to the regulation of his agency. The second provision prohibits a member of a city's governing board from being employed by that city. Similarly, in CEO's 76-187 and 78-28 we advised that these provisions of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would be violated by city commissioners who were being paid by their cities for serving as volunteer firemen, even though the amount of compensation was less than that received by the firemen addressed in CEO 76-109.
Here, however, the members of the volunteer fire corporation are not paid for their services as volunteer firemen. Therefore, we conclude that they are not employees either of the city or of the nonprofit corporation, despite the fact that they receive some benefits as volunteer firemen.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest exists when a city councilman is a member of a nonprofit, volunteer fire corporation which assists the city's fire department under a contract which does not provide for direct payment to the volunteer firemen.