CEO 84-111 -- November 29, 1984
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY POLICE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN POLYGRAPH BUSINESS
To: Mr. Schuyler M. Meyer, III, Chief of Police, Pompano Beach Police Department
No prohibited conflict of interest exists where the captain, a lieutenant, a sergeant, and a detective of the detective bureau of a city police department work together as independent contractors doing polygraph examinations due to the limited authority the officers have over subordinates. CEO's 82-6, 82-28 and 82-36 are referenced.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where the captain, a lieutenant, a sergeant and a detective of the detective bureau of a city police department work together as independent contractors doing polygraph examinations?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry and in a telephone conversation with our staff, you have advised that a police detective with the Pompano Beach Department, who does polygraph work for the Police Department, also owns a private polygraph company. You also have advised that the captain, a lieutenant, and a sergeant of the Detective Bureau also do polygraph examinations, sharing facilities and equipment as independent contractors with the detective. Under their agreement they pay the detective a fee based on their activities.
You also have advised that supervision in the Detective Bureau is handled through the chain of command. However, none of the officers has the authority to hire or fire any other officer. Each supervisor has the authority to discipline for minor complaints such as rudeness, but the internal affairs unit of the Police Department would handle the more serious allegations. Finally, you advise that at the present time the detective is not formally evaluated by his supervisors, since City rules provide that an employee's work is not formally evaluated after five years of service.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees prohibits a public officer or employee from having 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), Florida Statutes (1983). Under this provision we have advised that a municipal police officer may conduct polygraph examinations within that municipality so long as a prior written waiver of confidentiality is obtained from clients in accordance with Section 493.32, Florida Statutes. See CEO 82-6 and CEO 82-36.
With respect to the private business relationship among the officers of the detective bureau, we have stated previously that we are of the opinion that generally no continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest would arise from a contractual relationship between a public employee and a subordinate employee. See CEO 82-28. We also stated in that opinion:
It is possible that where a public employee has an ongoing business relationship with a subordinate, that private business relationship and the employee's interests in keeping that relationship harmonious, productive, and profitable would impede the employee's duty of impartially evaluating the subordinate's job performance and would lead to the frequently recurring conflict between those interests.
However, under the circumstances presented the officers do not evaluate the detective who owns the polygraph company and do not have the authority to hire or fire detectives.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest exists by virtue of the subject officers' involvement in the polygraph business. In the event that the officers' personnel authority is changed significantly, we suggest that you seek another opinion which would take into account the change in circumstances.