CEO 81-14 -- February 26, 1981
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
STATE REPRESENTATIVE LEASING OFFICE SPACE FROM UNIVERSITY WHICH EMPLOYS HIM
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees does not prohibit a State Representative from leasing office space for his district legislative office from the State university which employs him despite the fact that Section 112.313(7)(a) thereof prohibits a public officer from being employed by an agency which is subject to the regulation of, or is doing business with, the agency of which he is an officer. Insofar as the university is subject to the regulation of the Legislature, Section 112.313(7)(a)2 exempts conflicts of interest based on the Legislature's regulatory power. Nor would the legislator be employed by an agency which is doing business with the Legislature if he were to lease such office space, inasmuch as he would be dealing personally and directly with the university in leasing the space, paying for it out of the $700 per month he receives for intradistrict expenses pursuant to Section 11.13(4), F. S.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a State Representative, to lease office space for your district legislative office from the State university which employs you?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you write that recently you were elected to the Florida House of Representatives. In addition, you advise that you are an instructor on the faculty of the Center for Labor Studies and Research at Florida International University. You also advise that you would like to lease office space from the University for the purpose of setting up your district legislative office.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in part:
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 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. The foregoing shall not apply to district offices maintained by legislators when such offices are located in the legislator's place of business. This subsection shall not affect or be construed to prohibit contracts entered into prior to:
(a) October 1, 1975.
(b) Qualification for elective office.
(c) Appointment to public office.
(d) Beginning public employment.
[Section 112.313(3), F. S.]
This provision would not prohibit your lease of office space from the University for a district legislative office, since the University is not a business entity in which you have an interest. We note in particular that the statute exempts district offices maintained by a legislator in the legislator's place of business.
The Code of Ethics also provides:
CONFLICTING EMPLOYMENT OR CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIP. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity or any agency which is subject to the regulation of, or is doing business with, an agency of which he is an officer or employee . . . ; nor shall an officer or employee of an agency have or hold any employment or contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. [Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S.]
This provision prohibits a public officer from being employed by an agency which is subject to the regulation of, or is doing business with, the agency of which he is an officer. Insofar as the University is subject to the regulation of the Legislature, Section 112.313(7)(a)2, F. S., exempts conflicts of interest based on the Legislature's regulatory power. That subsection provides as follows:
When the agency referred to is a legislative body and the regulatory power over the business entity resides in another agency, or when the regulatory power which the legislative body exercises over the business entity or agency is strictly through the enactment of laws or ordinances, then employment or a contractual relationship with such business entity by a public officer or employee of a legislative body shall not be prohibited by this subsection or be deemed a conflict. [Section 112.313(7)(a)2, F. S.]
Nor do we find that you would be employed by an agency which is doing business with the Legislature if you were to lease office space from the University for your district legislative office. In a telephone conversation with our staff, you advised that each legislator receives a check for $700 each month for the legislator's intradistrict expenses. This expense allowance is provided for by Section 11.13(4), F. S. You also advised that from this allowance each legislator pays for his office expenses directly, including the expense of leasing his district legislative office. Thus, the Legislature would not be doing business with the University by providing office space; instead, you will be dealing directly with the University to lease your legislative office from it. Under these circumstances, and especially in light of the specific exemption for legislators' district offices which is contained in Section 112.313(3), we are of the opinion that the Legislature did not intend any of the provisions of the Code of Ethics to prohibit the lease of a district office from the legislator himself, from a business in which he has an interest, or from his employer.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to lease office space for your district legislative office from the State University which employs you.