CEO 85-71 -- October 3, 1985
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
PORT COMMISSIONER OWNING TRAVEL AGENCY
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes, prohibits a port commissioner's travel agency from making reservations for commissioners traveling on official business if travel is to be billed directly to the port, except to the extent of $500 per year. The travel agency should not make any reservations for port employees who are traveling on official business. Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, would not prohibit the commissioner's travel agency from doing business with tenants of the port. CEO's 76-175, 79-13, 80-1, 80-13, and 80-30 are referenced.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a Port Commissioner, to own an interest in a travel agency doing business with Port Commissioners, Port employees, and tenants of the Port?
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you serve as a Commissioner of the Port of Palm Beach and that you are considering acquiring an interest in a travel agency. This would involve a financial investment as a shareholder and the possibility of receiving a salary for your work in behalf of the travel agency. You question what restrictions the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees may place on the travel agency's doing business with Port Commissioners, Port employees, and tenants of the Port.
We previously have issued several advisory opinions concerning public officers and employees owning an interest in a travel agency. See CEO 76-175, CEO 80-1, CEO 80-13 and CEO 80-30. Therefore, this opinion will summarize briefly the effect of these prior interpretations on the questions you have posed.
Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes, prohibits you from owning more than a five percent interest in, or being an officer or director of, a business which is selling any services to the Port Authority. Therefore, as in CEO 80-1 and CEO 80-30, Port Commissioners traveling on official business should not make their reservations through your travel agency if travel is to be billed directly to the Port, except to the extent that your agency may do up to $500 worth of business with the Port in any given year. However, your travel agency may provide services for a Port Commissioner who will be personally responsible for paying travel expenses, even if those expenses are to be reimbursed by the Port.
Because the Port Authority apparently has full personnel authority over Port employees, under the rationale of CEO 80-1 and CEO 80-13 your travel agency should not make any reservations for Port employees who are traveling on official business. As in CEO 80-13, we would caution you also that any solicitation of Port employees' private travel business could constitute a misuse of public position on your part.
Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, prohibits you from being employed by or having a contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with the Port. However, as we advised in CEO 79-13, this provision would not prohibit you from having an interest in a business which is doing business with tenants of the Port. Nevertheless, as in CEO 79-13 we would caution you that solicitation of business from Port tenants could lead to the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Your questions are answered accordingly.