CEO 84-81 -- August 9, 1984
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
D.H.R.S. EMPLOYEE ACCEPTING GIFT OF FREE TRIP FROM FOSTER PARENTS
To: Ms. Barbara A. Dell McPherson, Legal Counsel, District V, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a Human Services Counselor with a District of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to accept a gift of a free trip from foster parents with whom she works. Under the circumstances, it cannot be concluded that the trip was solicited or would be accepted based upon the understanding that the employee's official actions would be influenced, or that the employee knows or with the exercise of reasonable care should know that the trip is being offered to influence any decision in which she is expected to participate.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were a human services counselor with the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to accept a gift of a free trip from foster parents with whom she works?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Ms. Susan Keefe is a Human Services Counselor II with District V of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. In that position she is responsible for working with adolescents placed in group homes. You also advise that foster parents with whom she works have earned a free trip to Paris, France, as a promotional gift in conjunction with their air-conditioning business. The parents have advised that they are unable to accept the trip, and have offered it to family and friends who also are unable to take the trip. Finally, they have offered the trip to the subject employee, who would like to accept it if not prohibited.
The employee's supervisor advises that the subject employee has case management responsibilities for three of the seven adolescents at the foster family group home. She also conducts group counseling sessions with all of the adolescents in the home. However, the employee's supervisor and not the subject employee is responsible for determining whether a child is to be placed in the home. In addition, licensing and monitoring of foster family group homes is handled by the Department's Central Licensing Unit and not by the subject employee. Foster parents do not receive an income from the Department for their services as foster parents, you advise. They do receive $10.70 per day, per child cared for, to be utilized under HRS policy totally for the care of the children, including room, board, and all other expenses except, typically, medical care.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
SOLICITATION OR ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS. -- No public officer, employee of an agency, or candidate for nomination or election shall solicit or accept anything of value to the recipient, including a gift, loan, reward, promise of future employment, favor, or service, based upon any understanding that the vote, official action, or judgment of the public officer, employee, or candidate would be influenced thereby. [Section 112.313(2), Florida Statutes (1983).]
UNAUTHORIZED COMPENSATION. -- No public officer or employee of an agency or his spouse or minor child shall, at any time, accept any compensation, payment, or thing of value when such public officer or employee knows, or, with the exercise of reasonable care, should know, that it was given to influence a vote or other action in which the officer or employee was expected to participate in his official capacity. [Section 112.313(4), Florida Statutes (1983).]
Having examined the circumstances of this gift as presented in the materials accompanying your letter of inquiry, we are unable to conclude that the trip was solicited or would be accepted based upon the understanding that the employee's official actions would be influenced; nor can we find that the employee knows or with the exercise of reasonable care should know that the trip is being offered to influence any decision in which she is expected to participate in her official capacity. In particular, we note that the trip has been offered to other friends and relatives of the foster parents, that the employee is not responsible for licensing and monitoring the foster family group home, and that the employee's supervisor rather than the employee is responsible for determining whether a child will be placed in that home.
Accordingly, we find that under the facts presented no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the subject employee to accept the gift of the free trip.