CEO 93-5 -- March 11, 1993
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
CITY FIRE CHIEF TEACHING COURSE IN
FIRE SCIENCE DEPARTMENT AT COMMUNITY COLLEGE
To: Mr. Richard R. Michelson, City Attorney (Lauderhill)
No prohibited conflict of interest would be created under Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, were a city fire chief to be employed as an adjunct professor in the fire sciences department of a community college. Although city employees may be reimbursed by the city for course work they complete which relates to their public employment, the city neither does business with nor regulates the community college. Nor do the circumstances presented indicate a situation in which the fire chief would be tempted to favor his teaching duties over his responsibilities as fire chief, and it does not appear that he would be imparting information not available to the general public in violation of Section 112.313(8), Florida Statutes. CEO's 87-53 and 82-66 are referenced.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were a city fire chief to teach a course in the fire sciences department at a community college which city employees may attend and be reimbursed for by the city?.
Your question is answered in the negative, under the circumstances you have presented.
In your letter of inquiry and in subsequent correspondence, you indicate that Mr. Charles Faranda, Jr. is the Lauderhill Fire Chief and that he has been requested to teach as an adjunct professor at a community college in its fire sciences department. You advise that from time to time City employees will take courses and seminars from this community college as well as other local schools and that the City has a policy of reimbursing its employees upon successful completion of courses when the course relates to the employee's job with the City. Although the Fire Department has established broad educational guidelines for its employees for the purpose of achieving employment goals, you relate, it does not specify the particular courses its employees must obtain or that course be obtained from a particular institution. Thus, the Fire Chief does not order his employees to attend a particular educational institution or a specific course being taught there. Further, you have advised that the Fire Chief's compensation as an adjunct professor will not be based upon the number of students enrolled in his course and that he will have no involvement in soliciting or selecting students for the fire sciences department or any other department of the school. You question whether a conflict of interest would be created were the Fire Chief to accept the position of adjunct professor.
The applicable provision of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees is Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, which provides:
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.
This provision prohibits a public employee from having an employment or contractual relationship with a business entity or agency which is doing business with or is regulated by his public agency. It also prohibits an employee from having an employment or contractual relationship which creates a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and his public duties, or which impedes the full and faithful discharge of his public duties.
Here, there is no indication that the City regulates the community college. Nor does it appear that the City and the community college are "doing business" for purposes of Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes. Although you have indicated that the City reimburses its employees upon the successful completion of courses which relate to their official job duties, this does not suggest any business relationship between the City and the college. You also indicated that the college provided a computer course to City employees at City Hall in 1992 but that the City's personnel department arranged for the course and paid the college directly, with no involvement on the part of the Fire Department. Thus, under the circumstances presented, there does not appear to be a prohibited conflict of interest under the first portion of Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes.
Nor does the information you have provided suggest a conflict of interest under the second portion of Section 112.313(7)(a), because, assuming that the Chief teaches the course outside of his regular duty hours and does not use City time or resources to prepare for his teaching responsibilities, we see no impediment to the full and faithful discharge of his duties as Lauderhill Fire Chief. It also appears that the Chief would not have the ability or financial incentive to refer City employees to his course, as his compensation from the college would not be based upon the number of attendees in his class and he will not have any involvement in soliciting or selecting students for either the college's fire sciences department or any other department of the school. Therefore, it is our view that no prohibited conflict of interest exists under the second portion of Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes.
In other opinions we have noted that Section 112.313(8), Florida Statutes, prohibits public employees from imparting information gained through their official positions and not available to the general public. See CEO 87-53 and CEO 82-66. However, as long as the course taught by the Chief does not include information that the Chief obtained through his position with the City and that is not available to members of the general public, we do not believe this provision would be implicated.
Accordingly, we find that no prohibited conflict of interest exists where the City fire chief is employed as an adjunct professor in the fire sciences department of a community college.