The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 77-30

May 9, 1978
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
An attorney who by contract represents the county commission, not individual members, may
not represent an individual commissioner before the Florida Ethics Commission in a matter
involving misuse of public office. Such representation would present an inherent conflict and
the appearance of impropriety.
Note: This opinion was re-affirmed by the Professional Ethics Committee at its April 10,
2006 meeting.

EC 5-14, DR 5-105
Vice Chairman Waas stated the opinion of the committee:

The inquiring attorney asks whether a professional conflict would arise under the
following circumstances:
A county commissioner is charged before the ethics commission with misuse of
public office in directing county employees to work on private property during
normal working hours with county road equipment. The subject commissioner
asks the county attorney to represent him as legal counsel. The county attorney is
on contract with the county and engages in the private practice of law in addition
to his work for the county.
The Committee finds that the above situation represents an inherent conflict and the
appearance of impropriety. DR 5-105 commands a lawyer to refuse multiple employment if his
professional judgment will be or is likely to be adversely affected by representation of another
client. Additionally, EC 5-14 provides that:
Maintaining the independence of professional judgment required of a lawyer
precludes his acceptance or continuation of employment that will adversely affect
his judgment on behalf of or dilute his loyalty to a client. This problem arises
whenever a lawyer is asked to represent two or more clients who may have
differing interests, whether such interests be conflicting, inconsistent, diverse or
otherwise discordant.
A county attorney represents the county commission, not the individual members serving
on it. He places his responsibility as county attorney in jeopardy when he accepts an
engagement to represent a particular commissioner before the Florida Ethics Commission.