The Florida Bar

February 15, 1960

It is improper for a lawyer who is special counsel for the personnel board of a city to appear before the city council or file suit against the city on behalf of private clients even in matters unrelated to personnel problems, because of inherent conflicts of interest, which cannot be effectively eliminated by disclosure, and the possibility of public misunderstanding of such arrangements.

Canons: 6, 29
Opinion: 59-2

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

A request is made for an opinion by the Committee as to whether it would be ethical for a lawyer, as special counsel for the Personnel Board of a Florida city in a large metropolitan area, to appear before the City Council of that city on behalf of private clients relative to matters entirely unrelated to personnel problems, and as to whether such employment would preclude him from filing suit against the City on behalf of private clients on matters entirely unrelated to personnel problems.

This Committee had a similar matter before it and rendered its Opinion 59-2, in connection with a County Attorney representing property owners in condemnation suits and in automobile accident cases.

It is our opinion that it would not be proper to represent the Personnel Board of the City and at the same time to appear before the City Council on behalf of private clients and to file suits against the City even though unrelated to personnel problems, since the lawyer is directly employed by the City Council to represent and advise the Council, and the disclosure of possible conflicting interests to all parties probably is not sufficient to justify representation when interests conflict and public misunderstanding regarding such representation could easily arise.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]