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CEO 92-12 -- March 6, 1992

CEO 92-12 -- March 6, 1992

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Published by Timothy Gibbons

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Published by: Timothy Gibbons on Aug 29, 2012
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8/29/12 11:43 AMCEO 92-12 -- March 6, 1992Page 1 of 10http://www.ethics.state.fl.us/Opinions/92/CEO%2092-012.htm
CEO 92-12 -- March 6, 1992 
To: Thomas M. Beard, Chairman, Florida Public Service Commission, (Tallahassee)
 Where a Public Service Commission employee travels to audit the recordsof a utility company, where the employee is reimbursed for his travelexpense by his agency, and where the utility then reimburses the agency for the employee's expense, the employee has not received a gift under Section112.3148, Florida Statutes. Similarly, where an employee travels to ameeting sponsored by a Federal or another State agency, where theemployee is reimbursed for his travel expense by the agency, and where theagency is then reimbursed for the employee's expense by the Federal or other State agency, the employee has not received a gift which must bedisclosed pursuant to Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes. Where a PublicService Commission Commissioner or employee is invited to speak at afunction not sponsored by a utility or party to a pending proceeding, wherethe Commissioner or employee is reimbursed by the agency for his or her travel expense in accordance with Section 112.061, Florida Statutes, andwhere the agency then seeks reimbursement for this expense from theevent's host, neither the Commissioner nor the employee has received anhonorarium or expenses related to an honorarium event pursuant to Section112.3149, Florida Statutes. Where a Public Service CommissionCommissioner serves on the advisory council of a nonprofit corporationfunded by electric utilities to direct research, development, anddemonstration of new technology, and where the Commissioner acceptsreimbursement from the nonprofit corporation for travel expenses incurredin attending advisory council meetings, such reimbursement may beaccepted by the Commissioner and disclosed as a gift pursuant to Section112.3148, Florida Statutes. Where the Commissioner travels to advisorycouncil meetings at public expense and is reimbursed by the Commission inaccordance with Section112.061, Florida Statutes, and where the nonprofitcorporation reimburses the Commission for this expense, such
8/29/12 11:43 AMCEO 92-12 -- March 6, 1992Page 2 of 10http://www.ethics.state.fl.us/Opinions/92/CEO%2092-012.htm
reimbursement does not constitute a gift to the Commissioner which must be disclosed. As the nonprofit corporation neither directly nor indirectlyowns or controls any utility regulated by the agency, nor is either anaffiliate or subsidiary of any utility regulated by the agency, Section350.041, Florida Statutes, is not violated where a Commissioner serves onthe nonprofit corporation's advisory council and is reimbursed for his travelexpense in attending advisory council meetings. CEO's91-57,91-46,91- 33, and91-21, are referenced.  
 Where a Florida utility reimburses the Florida Public Service Commission(PSC) for the cost of a PSC employee's travel and lodging expenses, wherethe employee is performing an audit of the utility's out-of-state records, andwhere PSC rules authorize a utility to reimburse the PSC under suchcircumstances, does such reimbursement constitute a gift which must bereported by the employee? Question 1 is answered in the negative. In your letter of inquiry you advise that when a PSC employee performs an auditon a Florida utility whose records are kept out-of-state, the employee pays his own way,submits a travel voucher to the agency, and is paid by the State in accordance with the provisions of Section 112.061, Florida Statutes. Thereafter, the PSC's Division of Administration bills the utility for the amount expended on behalf of the employee. Youquestion whether this situation implicates the provisions governing gifts contained inSection 112.3148, Florida Statutes.You further relate that the PSC's Location and Preservation of Records rulesauthorize this process, and you reference Florida Administrative Code Rules 25-4.020(telephone), 25-6.015 (electricity), and 25-7.015 (gas). For example, Rule 25-6.015(2),F.A.C., states: Any utility authorized to keep its records outside of the state shall reimburse the Commission for the reasonabletravel expense of the Commission's representative duringany out-of-state audit. While we acknowledge the existence of these regulations, we recognize that we do nothave the authority to determine the legality or appropriateness of the Public Service
8/29/12 11:43 AMCEO 92-12 -- March 6, 1992Page 3 of 10http://www.ethics.state.fl.us/Opinions/92/CEO%2092-012.htm
Commission's rules in this regard. Nonetheless, we are able to render an opinionconcerning whether or not the employee has received a gift in this situation.Although not stated in your letter, we will assume for purposes of this opinion thatthe PSC employee discussed herein is considered a "specified state employee" pursuant toSection 112.3145(1)(b)6, Florida Statutes, and thus, is a "reporting individual" for  purposes of Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes.Section 112.3148(4), Florida Statutes, provides in relevant part: A reporting individual or procurement employee or any other person on his behalf is prohibited from knowinglyaccepting, directly or indirectly, a gift from a politicalcommittee or committee of continuous existence, as definedin s. 106.011, or from a lobbyist who lobbies the reportingindividual's or procurement employee's agency, or directly or indirectly on behalf of the partner, firm, employer, or  principal of a lobbyist, if he knows or reasonably believesthat the gift has a value in excess of $100; however, such agift may be accepted by such person on behalf of agovernmental entity or a charitable organization. If the giftis accepted on behalf of a governmental entity or charitableorganization, the person receiving the gift shall not maintaincustody of the gift for any period of time beyond thatreasonably necessary to arrange for the transfer of custodyand ownership of the gift. This section would prohibit acceptance by the employee of a gift valued in excess of $100from a lobbyist or a principal or employer of a lobbyist, unless accepted on behalf of agovernmental entity or charitable organization.Section 112.3148(2)(b), Florida Statutes, provides: 'Lobbyist' means any natural person who, for compensation, seeks, or sought during the preceding 12months, to influence the governmental decisionmaking of areporting individual or procurement employee or his agencyor seeks, or sought during the preceding 12 months, toencourage the passage, defeat, or modification of any proposal or recommendation by the reporting individual or 

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