CEO 82-32 -- May 20, 1982
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DISTRICT MANAGER OF SPECIAL TAXING DISTRICT EMPLOYED BY MAJOR LANDOWNER WITHIN DISTRICT
To: Mr. J. D. Boone Kuersteiner, Attorney for Falls Chase Special Taxing District
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the district manager of a special taxing district to be employed by a major landowner within the district. Section 190.007(1), Florida Statutes, provides that it shall not be a conflict of interest under the Code of Ethics for the district manager or employee of a community development district to be a stockholder, officer, or employee of a landowner. Although the special taxing district here was created before the enactment of Chapter 190, the legislative intent appears clear regarding districts such as the one involved here.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were the District Manager of a Special Taxing District to be employed by a major landowner within the District?
Your question is answered in the negative under the circumstances presented.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that the Board of Trustees of the Falls Chase Special Taxing District is in the process of reviewing employment applicants for the position of District Manager. You also advise that several of the applicants presently have or anticipate having an employment relationship with the major landowners and taxpayers within the District, whose land is subject to the Board's governance. Substantially all of the land within the District is owned by three entities -- two corporations and a sole proprietorship -- which are owned or controlled by a single individual. In addition, you advise that the District was organized by the Board of County Commissioners of Leon County pursuant to Chapter 165, Florida Statutes, as a political subdivision of the State and a unit of local government.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
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 employee from being employed by a business entity which is doing business with or is subject to the regulation of his agency. However, Section 112.313(7)(a)1, Florida Statutes, provides:
When the agency referred to is that certain kind of special taxing district created by general or special law and is limited specifically to constructing, maintaining, managing, and financing improvements in the land area over which the agency has jurisdiction, or when the agency has been organized pursuant to chapter 298, then employment with, or entering into a contractual relationship with, such business entity by a public officer or employee of such agency shall not be prohibited by this subsection or be deemed a conflict per se. However, conduct by such officer or employee that is prohibited by, or otherwise frustrates the intent of, this section shall be deemed a conflict of interest in violation of the standards of conduct set forth by this section. (E. S.)
Although the District was not created by general or special law, but rather by County ordinance, we find that under the circumstances presented employment of the District Manager by a major landowner in the District would come within this exemption. As you have advised, the District was created pursuant to Chapter 165, Florida Statutes, which allows the creation of special districts by special act of the Legislature or by county ordinance. Section 165.041(2), Florida Statutes (1974). As the Legislature presumably was aware of this provision when it adopted 112.313(7)(a)1 in 1975, we normally would interpret that exemption to apply only where a district has been created by general or special law.
However, after the creation of the District, the Legislature adopted in 1980 Chapter 190, Florida Statutes, which provides for the establishment of community development districts encompassing 1,000 acres or more by the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission, and community development districts of less than 1,000 acres by county ordinance. This Chapter is significant, because Section 190.007(1) specifically provides:
It shall not be a conflict of interest under chapter 112 for the district manager or other employee of the district to be a stockholder, officer, or employee of a landowner.
Therefore, we find that the current legislative intent is to permit the employment of a community development district manager by a major landowner in the district, regardless of whether the district was created by county ordinance. Since our review of the ordinance which created the District indicates that it essentially is a community development district, we find that the exemption of Section 112.313(7)(a)1 would apply here.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the District Manager of the Falls Chase Special Taxing District to be employed by a major landowner within the District.