CEO 85-16 -- March 6, 1985
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT EMPLOYEE EMPLOYED BY BUSINESS INSPECTED BY PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created under Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, were an environmental health specialist with the environmental health division of a county public health unit to be employed by a children's home which is inspected by the environmental health division, where the employee's duties do not include inspecting children's homes or child care facilities. CEO's 77-147 and 84-93 are referenced.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, an environmental health specialist with the environmental health division of a county public health unit, to be employed by a children's home which is inspected by the environmental health division of the public health unit?
Your question is answered in the negative, under the circumstances presented.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are employed as an Environmental Health Specialist with the Environmental Health Division of the Leon County Public Health Unit, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. Your position description indicates that you are responsible for investigating food outlets, establishments and operations to determine compliance with the State and County regulations. You also advise that you are contemplating employment as a child care worker with a children's home during your off-duty hours. Finally, you advise that the Environmental Health Division of the Public Health Unit inspects the children's home under the auspices of Chapters 19, 381, 392, 393, 394, and 396, Florida Statutes.
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), Florida Statutes (1983).]
This provision prohibits you from having any employment with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of your agency.
In previous opinions CEO 77-147 and CEO 84-93 we have considered situations involving outside employment by county health department employees with entities regulated by their health departments. We found in CEO 84-93 that a nurse with the nursing division of a county health department could own a business inspected by the environmental health division of the department, as her responsibilities were completely separate from those of the environmental health division which regulated her private business. Here, however, your prospective employer is regulated by the Environmental Health Division within which you are employed.
Construction. -- It is not the intent of this part, nor shall it be construed, to prevent any officer or employee of a state agency or county, city, or other political subdivision of the state or any legislator or legislative employee from accepting other employment or following any pursuit which does not interfere with the full and faithful discharge by such officer, employee, legislator, or legislative employee of his duties to the state or the county, city, or other political subdivision of the state involved.
You have advised, and the Director of the Environmental Health Division has confirmed, that your position is not responsible for inspecting or regulating child care centers or for supervising the position responsible for child care and group facility inspections. In addition, we find significant the fact that your only interest in the home would be as a part-time employee, and not as an owner or managerial employee of the home. Finally, we note the great number and diversity of activities inspected and regulated by the Environmental Health Division; precluding all employees of the Division from outside employment with any entity subject to inspection by the Division could have the effect of virtually prohibiting outside employment altogether, a result not contemplated by the Code of Ethics. See Section 112.311(2), Florida Statutes.
As a caveat, we wish to remind you and any other Division employee who may rely on this opinion that the Code of Ethics prohibits a public employee from misusing his position to secure a special benefit for himself or another. Each employee should be cautioned against seeking to influence the actions or decisions of a fellow employee who is responsible for inspecting or regulating the employee's private employer.
Accordingly, we find under the circumstances presented that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to be employed by a children's home which is inspected by the Environmental Health Division of the Public Health Unit while serving in your present position as an employee of the Division.