CEO 89-37 -- September 14, 1989







To:      Luther E. Gunter, Jr., Taylor County Building Official (Perry)




A prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a building official and inspector with a county building department to accept employment with his brother's electrical contracting firm on jobs outside the county, where that firm also conducts business within the county and is licensed and regulated through the county building department. Section 112.313(7), Florida Statutes, prohibits a public employee from holding private employment with a business entity regulated by his agency.  CEO's 81-10 and 81-20 are referenced.




Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, the building official and inspector with a county building department, to perform electrical contracting work with your brother's firm in areas outside the county?


Your question is answered in the affirmative.


In your letter of inquiry, you advise that you are employed  as Taylor County Building Official and Inspector.  In this position, your duties include enforcement of County construction ordinances, inspection of work, receipt of complaints, and similar functions.  Your brother owns an electrical contracting business licensed by the County and performs work both inside and outside the County.  You advise that, on occasion, you are asked to work on electrical contracting jobs outside the County with your brother's firm.

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.


In CEO 81-20, we advised that this provision is intended to prohibit a public employee with regulatory authority from transacting business with persons whose interests are regulated by him, whether the business transacted is subject to his regulation or not.  In CEO 81-10, we advised that a city code inspector would be prohibited from engaging in real estate transactions with business entities which do business within the city, even though those transactions only would have involved property outside the city.  The fact that the entity is still subject to regulation by the employee's agency is sufficient to create a conflict of interest under Section 112.313(7)(a).

As the County Building Official, you are in a position to regulate, either directly or through your subordinates, the contractor who would be employing you.  So long as your brother's electrical contracting firm is doing business within the regulatory jurisdiction of your agency, you would be prohibited from  employment with that firm.  A building official must make decisions within the context of inspections and other regulations that can have economic impact on the businesses regulated.  For this reason, under the Code of Ethics, such persons cannot have private interests in businesses regulated by their public agencies.

Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you, a County Building Official, to accept employment with your brother's electrical contracting firm, when that firm also does business within areas where the Building Department has jurisdiction.