CEO 86-33 -- May 15, 1986
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DEPARTMENT OF GENERAL SERVICES STAFF ATTORNEY CANDIDATE FOR COUNTY COMMISSION
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a staff attorney with the Department of General Services to serve as a county commissioner. Under the circumstances presented, the Department is not subject to the regulation of or doing business with the county, and no frequently recurring or continuing conflict of interest would be created.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, a Department of General Services Staff Attorney, to serve as a member of a county commission?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are employed by the Department of General Services (D.G.S.) as a staff attorney. Among other responsibilities, D.G.S. enters into contracts for the construction of State-owned buildings and for the purchase of commodities and contractual services for the State. Your primary responsibilities include reviewing, revising, drafting, and negotiating contracts, and preparing cases for litigation. You advise that D.G.S. and Leon County are jointly involved in three matters. First, D.G.S. is involved in transferring State land to the County for a justice complex in return for land of equal value from the County. Secondly, D.G.S. is negotiating with the justice complex contractor regarding the use of a tower crane over State airspace. Thirdly, D.G.S. has one representative and the County has two County Commissioners serving on a committee regarding the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center area mixed use project. You further state that you are not involved in any of these three matters. You question whether you could serve as a member of the Leon County Commission while continuing your employment with the Department.
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 (1985).]
This provision prohibits a public officer or employee from being employed by an agency which is subject to the regulation of or is doing business with his agency. Under the circumstances you have presented, it is clear that if you were to serve as a member of the County Commission you would not be employed by an agency (D.G.S.) which is subject to the regulation of your agency. Nor do we find that you would be employed by an agency which is doing business with the County Commission.
In a telephone conversation with our staff, you advised that the contract for the land swap was entered into over one year ago between the County and the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, rather than D.G.S. The contract contains a lease/purchase agreement for the justice complex property and requires the County to convey seven parcels of property to the Board of Trustees by the end of 1989. Apparently, D.G.S. was involved in the contract only because property appraisals were required and because of the rental aspects of the contract.
Under these circumstances, it is apparent that the County is doing business with the Board of Trustees rather than with your agency, D.G.S. We also are of the opinion that D.G.S. is not "doing business" with the County by virtue of its negotiations with the justice complex contractor and the joint representation on the civic center area committee.
Section 112.313(7)(a) also prohibits a public officer from having any employment which will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between private interests and the performance of public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of public duties. None of the circumstances you have presented indicate that there would be a continuing or frequently recurring conflict in this situation or that your employment with D.G.S. would impede the full and faithful discharge of a county commissioner's public duties, so long as your employment would not impede your ability to attend meetings and otherwise perform the functions of that office.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you, a Department of General Services Staff Attorney, to serve as a member of the Leon County Commission.