CEO 76-55 -- March 16, 1976
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
MUNICIPAL PURCHASING MANAGER RELATED TO ONE WHO BIDS FOR CITY WORK
To: Gene Suggs, Purchasing and Sales Manager, City of Jacksonville
Prepared by: Bonnie Johnson
A municipal purchasing and sales manager is not prohibited from routinely handling bids on city jobs which are submitted by a relative. The city's purchasing procedure includes advertisement of invitations to bid, a public opening of bids, consideration of the recommendation by the affected city department, the recommendation of the purchasing division, approval by the awards committee, and the final awarding by the mayor. Sufficient guidelines and safeguards therefore are deemed to exist to avoid any favoritism or appearance thereof on the part of the subject employee.
Does a prohibited conflict of interest exist where I, in my capacity as purchasing and sales manager for the City of Jacksonville, routinely deal with competitive bids submitted by my cousin, a general contractor, who bids on concrete related jobs for the city?
Your question is answered in the negative.
You inform us in your letter of inquiry that all bids for products and services needed by the city which are expected to exceed $4,000 are handled by formal bidding procedures. Invitations to bid are advertised in a local newspaper at least twice over a minimum of 3 weeks, and at least six to eight invitations are mailed directly to active contractors registered with the purchasing division. Formal bids are opened at a designated time and place open to public scrutiny. Copies of bid results are sent to the department of the city which will receive the service, which department returns to the purchasing division its written recommendation as to the bids received.
You further inform us that you have been employed by the city for 19 years, having recently been promoted to your current position as purchasing and sales manager. In this capacity, you are responsible for reviewing bids received in light of the departmental recommendation, with an eye toward selecting the lowest bid which fulfills the job specifications cited in the bid invitation. You then make your recommendation to the city's chief purchasing officer, who examines all bids in the same light and makes his recommendation to the awards committee for their approval or rejection. The final decision on the awarding of bids lies with the mayor.
Your concern stems from the fact that your cousin's contracting firm often bids on concrete related jobs for the city. It is our understanding that the firm has done business with the city for over 20 years, with your cousin only recently having taken over as owner. You have no interest in the firm.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides, in relevant part:
It is essential to the proper conduct and operation of government that public officials be independent and impartial . . . . [Fla. Stat. s. 112.311(1)(1975).]
You assure us in your letter of inquiry that, in making your bid recommendations, you show no favoritism to any bidder. Further, we perceive that your authority in the awarding of bids is limited by the city policy of accepting the lowest bid meeting specifications and by consideration of the departmental recommendation. Moreover, all bids are analyzed further by the chief purchasing officer, the awards committee, and finally by the mayor.
In our view, sufficient guidelines and safeguards exist in the city's purchasing procedure to avoid any favoritism or appearance thereof in the awarding of bids. We therefore perceive no conflict where you, in the manner described above, routinely handle those bids submitted by your cousin's firm.