CEO 87-11 -- March 11, 1987
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
STATE UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
TEACHING COURSE AT PRIVATE UNIVERSITY
To: Louis A. Woods, Associate Professor of Geography and Economics, University of North Florida, Jacksonville
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created under the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees were a state university associate professor to teach a course at a private university. The employee's employment relationship with the private university would not violate Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, as that university is not doing business with the state university. Additionally, it does not appear that such employment would impede the full and faithful discharge of the employee's public duties.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created under the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees were an associate professor at a state university to teach a course at a private university?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Economics at the University of North Florida (UNF). You further advise that you have taught a course entitled "Physical Geography" at Jacksonville University (JU), a private four-year college, for two terms on an adjunct basis. You initially were hired by UNF as a geographer with graduate training in economics. You understood that you would teach a combination of geography and economics courses for the short term and that a full scale program in geography would be implemented within several years. The subsequent lack of geography offerings at UNF has detracted from the nature of your professional geography skills, but teaching the courses at JU has allowed you to maintain and improve your capabilities in geography, you advise. Your total time commitment to JU has been less than five hours per week.
While you have been allowed to teach at JU in the past, a controversy has existed among members of UNF's administration as to whether this activity constituted a conflict of interest. Your department dean recently opposed your request to teach at JU on the grounds that "teaching a course similar to . . . [one] . . . at Jacksonville University constitutes an interference with the employee's institutional responsibilities." You state that Article 19.5 of the UFF/BOR Collective Bargaining Agreement was cited as the reason for this opposition.
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).]
The first portion of this provision prohibits a public employee from having an employment relationship with a business entity which is doing business with his agency. In a telephone conversation with our staff, the assistant vice president for academic affairs at UNF stated that no relationships exist between JU and UNF which would constitute "doing business" within the contemplation of the Code of Ethics.
Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, also prohibits a public employee from having any employment that creates 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. In this instance, you state that the course in question only has been taught once at UNF in the five years that it has been listed in the college catalog. Furthermore, you maintain that no competition exists between the two universities as they serve two separate and distinct markets by virtue of the fact that the tuition rates at JU are much higher than those at UNF. By reason of these situations, we are of the opinion that your outside employment would not result in a conflict prohibited by this provision.
Accordingly, under the circumstances presented, we find that the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees would not prohibit you from teaching a course at a private university while serving as an associate professor at the University of North Florida.
Please be advised, however, that we are not in a position to judge whether your outside employment is prohibited under the UFF/BOR Collective Bargaining Agreement or under any other provisions governing your public employment.