CEO 88-28 -- April 28, 1988
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
D.H.R.S. PROTECTIVE SERVICES COUNSELOR
EMPLOYED AS FAMILY COUNSELOR FOR CORPORATION
CONTRACTING WITH DEPARTMENT
To: Ms. R. Darlene Dick, Protective Services Counselor, District Six, Children, Youth, and Families Program, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, Sebring
No prohibited conflict of interest exists under Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, where a protective services counselor for a Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services District Children, Youth, and Families Program is employed by a private, nonprofit corporation which contracts with the Department. Here, the employee has no involvement with the contract between the Department and the corporation or referrals from the Department to the corporation. CEO 85-73 is referenced.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where you, a Protective Services Counselor for the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, are employed part-time by a private, nonprofit corporation which contracts with the Department?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry and in telephone conversations with our staff you have advised that you are employed as a Protective Services Counselor with the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, District Six, Children, Youth, and Families Program. In that position you are responsible for providing services to families in which some type of abuse or neglect has been indicated and the child has remained in the home.
You also advise that you are employed as a part-time family counselor for a private, nonprofit corporation which contracts with the Department to provide services for the Juvenile Alternative Services Program (JASP). JASP provides services to juveniles who are first time offenders and to juveniles who have been charged with misdemeanors. The program is designed to prevent certain juvenile offenders from becoming involved with the court system and allows these individuals the opportunity to avoid a criminal record. A youth who fails to complete the program successfully is referred back to the Department and generally is placed in a community control program by the court. You evaluate juveniles in JASP and determine whether family counseling is necessary. If the child is recommended for counseling, you initially visit the home in order to assess whether the child or family is experiencing any particular problems with which they need assistance. If such problems exist, you arrange for counseling sessions which are designed to help the family deal with their problems and to provide them with access to resources within the community. Your job also includes maintaining records relating to field notes, initial assessments, and closing summaries.
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 (1987).]
This provision prohibits you from having any employment with a business entity which is subject to the regulation of, or is doing business with, your agency, and prohibits you from having any employment that would present a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest or would impede the full and faithful discharge of your public duties.
In previous advisory opinions where a Department employee has sought employment with a private entity, we have examined the employee's role in the regulatory process over the private entity and the employee's role in any contract between the Department and the private entity. We also have considered whether the employee is in a position to refer Department clients to the private entity. See, for example, CEO 85-73.
Here, the Department plays no part in the regulation or licensing of the nonprofit corporation. Also, although the Department has contracted with the nonprofit corporation, you have no responsibilities regarding the contract in your position with the Department. You further advise that any Department referrals to JASP are made by delinquency workers and that you have no involvement with the referral process. Finally, you advise that you have agreed with your private employer that you will not have any contact with children under Department supervision within the context of JASP.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest exists where you, a Protective Services Counselor for the Department, are employed part-time as a family counselor with a private corporation.