CEO 85-13 -- January 24, 1985
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY COUNCILMAN ACCEPTING TRIP IN CONNECTION WITH SISTER CITY PROGRAM
To: Mr. Bill Colon, City Council Member, City of Sunrise
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a city council member to accept a free trip to Israel from a tour agency which has worked with the city on a tour to Israel for the public in connection with the city's sister city program. The propriety of involvement by the city and its personnel in the tour is not a matter addressed by the Code of Ethics, but rather is a question of whether there is a legitimate public purpose in expending city funds to assist in the tour.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a city council member, to accept a free trip to Israel from a tour agency which has worked with the city on a tour to Israel for the public in connection with the city's sister city program?
Under the circumstances presented, your question is answered in the negative.
Through your letter of inquiry we are advised that the City of Sunrise, which you serve as City Council member, has adopted a city in Israel as a sister city. In order to supplement this relationship, an Israeli pilgrimage and tour was set up in 1984 with the public invited to participate. As a result of tremendous public response, the Israeli-authorized wholesale tour agency made an offer to City Council members to join the pilgrimage as their guests. In a telephone conversation with our staff, you advise that although you did not participate in that trip, you expect that this offer will be made again.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees contains two provisions which prohibit public officials from accepting gifts. They provide as follows:
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).]
The first provision prohibits you from accepting a gift which is based on the understanding that your official action would be influenced. The second provision prohibits you from accepting anything of value when you know, or with the exercise of reasonable care should know, that it was given to influence an official action in which you are expected to participate.
Your letter of inquiry contains no indication that the free trip will be offered to Council members based on any understanding that their official action would be influenced. Nor does it appear that the trip would be given to influence any official action in which you are expected to participate.
You also have inquired about the propriety of the City's and its officials' involvement in the tour by collecting money and using City personnel and materials. Under the circumstances presented, especially given the City's participation in the sister city program, we view this question as being primarily a question of whether there is a legitimate public purpose in expending City funds to assist in the tour, rather than as being an ethical question. As there is no issue under the Code of Ethics presented in this situation, we have no authority to decide in an advisory opinion whether the use of City resources in this manner is proper.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to accept a free trip to Israel from the tour agency in connection with a tour sponsored by the City as part of its sister city program. Please note, however, that under Section 111.011, Florida Statutes, an elected municipal official must disclose gifts with a value of over $25 on Commission on Ethics Form 7, Gift Disclosure for Elected Officers.