CEO 90-6 -- January 24, 1990
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY HUMAN RELATIONS EMPLOYEE SEEKING APPOINTMENT
TO STATE HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION
To: Ronald McElrath, Manager, Community Relations Division, City of Clearwater
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a manager for a city community relations division to also serve on the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The city division is not regulated by, or doing business with, the State Commission; nor would the manager's private interests be benefited through his service on the Commission. In addition, the city community relations division has no interest adverse to that of the State Commission.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were you, the manager of a city community relations division, to be appointed to serve on the State Commission on Human Relations?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry, you advise that you currently serve as the Community Relations and Equal Opportunity Manager of the Community Relations Division for the City of Clearwater. Your duties, as set forth in the City Code, include serving as staff to the Community Relations Board and performing such other duties of an administrative nature as are assigned by the City Manager. The functions of the Community Relations Board include investigating and processing complaints alleging discriminatory practices in housing, employment, and other areas as defined by City Code.
You also advise that you may be appointed to the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR). The FCHR, created under Chapter 760, Florida Statutes, is a statewide body composed of twelve members appointed by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the Senate. It is charged by statute with receiving, initiating, investigating, and otherwise acting upon complaints alleging discriminatory practices in employment and housing. Where a local agency has jurisdiction over a complaint and the authority to investigate and act on a complaint, the FCHR may refer the complaint to that agency. If such a referral takes place, the FCHR ceases to have jurisdiction of the complaint. Section 760.10(11), Florida Statutes. Other powers of the FCHR include promoting the creation of, and providing continuing technical assistance to, local commissions on human relations. You inquire as to whether a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to serve as a member of the Florida Commission on Human Relations while also being employed by the City Community Relations Division.
The Code of Ethics 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.
The first part of this provision would prohibit you from holding employment with the Community Relations Division if it is regulated by or doing business with the FCHR. Based on the information provided and a review of the relevant statutes and ordinances, the only potential interactions between the two would seem to be the referral of complaints and the provision of technical assistance by the FCHR to the City Community Relations Board. Under these circumstances, we do not find the local board to be regulated by or doing business with the State Commission for purposes of this provision.
The second part of this provision would prohibit you from holding employment with the City if that employment would create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between your private interests and your public duties as a State Commissioner, or would impede the full and faithful discharge of those duties. The first question to be considered in this analysis is whether your private interests as an employee would create a conflict of interest with your public duties. "Conflict of interest" is defined at Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, to mean "a situation in which regard for a private interest tends to lead to disregard for a public duty or interest." In Zerweck v. State Commission on Ethics, 409 So. 2d 57, 61 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982), the Court concluded that Section 112.313(7)(a)
requires an examination of the nature and extent of the public officer's duties together with a review of his private employment to determine whether the two are compatible, separate and distinct or whether they coincide to create a situation which 'tempts dishonor.'
In CEO 87-64, we advised that an assistant state attorney also could serve as a member of a county housing finance authority, despite the requirement that the state attorney represent the State in bond validation proceedings involving housing finance bonds. In that opinion, the assistant state attorney had no private interest in the bonds. In CEO 81-5, we advised that a school board member could be employed as the supervisor of a regional diagnostic and learning resource center, as no action taken as a school board member could benefit his private interests. On the facts presented, we similarly conclude that you would not have any private interest which could be benefited through your service on the FCHR.
The second question to be considered is whether your City employment would impede the full and faithful discharge of your duties as a State Commissioner. In CEO 87-64, cited above, we concluded that the State Attorney's office had no interest adverse to the housing finance authority. In CEO 87-81, we advised that no such conflict would exist where an employee of the Department of Community Affairs was appointed to be a city manager. It was noted that the experience represented by his employment could actually be of benefit to the city. In this case, we see no impediment to your duties as a Commissioner from your employment with the City. The statutes and ordinances governing the operations of the two agencies mandate cooperation and technical assistance, and by statute they would not have simultaneous jurisdiction over any complaint.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to serve as a member of the Florida Commission on Human Relations while also being employed by the City as Coordinator of the Human Relations Division.