The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 69-21

July 23, 1969
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
An attorney employed on a regular basis by a municipality or its official boards or commissions
should not represent private clients before the governing board of the city.


Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:
One product of the dissemination of prior opinions of the Committee in a
recent publication distributed by The Florida Bar is the inquiry giving rise to this
opinion. The inquirer in our Opinion 59-25 advises the Committee that he
apparently never received the opinion from the then Committee, but that, more
importantly, he is concerned that the facts of the opinion there set forth did not
accurately relate his status. He advises as follows:
From 1957 to the present time, I have been employed by the City Council
of the City of __________ , on a part time basis, to attend all meetings of the
Personnel Board and disciplinary proceedings before such Board, so as to be its
legal advisor. Under the Resolution employing me, my duties are confined to
advising the Personnel Board (Resolution __________ , attached hereto). I do not
advise, represent nor consult with the City Council. Although the City Council, as
the legislative branch of the City, adopted the resolution employing me and
setting up my compensation, the attorney-client relationship is solely between the
Personnel Board and myself, under the terms of the Resolution of Employment.
The Personnel Board is a semi-autonomous body consisting of five lay
members, serving without salary, each appointed by a 5/7 vote of the City Council
for five year terms and three members elected by the employees for three year
terms. The Board is charged with the responsibility of enforcing personnel
procedures contemplated by the Civil Service Act (Chapter ______ , Special Acts
of 19___) and the Rules adopted by the Board in conformity therewith. It also
hears appeals of Civil Service employees who are suspended, reduced or
removed. The decisions of the Board are not reviewable by the City Council or
the City Manager, but are final unless reversed by the Circuit Court, if appropriate
action is filed therein. If such a suit for review is filed, I do not represent the City
therein, but such representation is handled by the City Attorney. My duties cease
as soon as the matter leaves the Personnel Board.
I might also here point out that Section 6 of the Charter of the City of
__________ provides:

“The City of __________ shall have the power: . . . . To adopt such
ordinance as may be deemed proper to prohibit any officer, board member, or
employee to engage in any activity or enter into any agreement which shall be in
conflict with his duties as such officer, board member or employee, and to
provide penalties, including removal from office or employment, for any violation
of such ordinance or ordinances.”
The Conflict of Interest ordinance of the City provides:
“No officer, official, employee or assistant city attorney who received
compensation shall appear before the city council or any board, commission,
department or agency of the city in behalf of private interests in any matter which
will be in conflict with his duties as such officer, official or employee.”
One member dissenting, the Committee, without endeavoring to look behind Opinion
59-25, concludes that the same result should obtain under the facts above stated, it being the
belief of the Committee that any attorney who is retained on a regular basis by a municipality or
any of its official boards or commissions should not represent private clients before the
governing board of the city.
We recognize as stated by the inquirer that his local bar association through its ethics
committee has advised him that it holds a differing view. It is not clear to us whether this
opinion, or the resolution of the City Council, were procured before or after the issuance of
Opinion 59-25, and we offer no commentary, therefore, on the inferences which might be drawn
from the time sequence involved. We merely state in passing that our opinions are advisory only,
and that it is not at all unusual or unexpected that from time to time this Committee will reach
conclusions not shared by other committees or members of the Bar.