SE pti r 24, 1976 KEY W ; 76;-2
ME O TO: FILE ,
FE OM: LMB _1 h
R : 19700 (and 74-1475) t
.fP If&d 1
We represent a public corporation created by special advertised
c1 al act which technically is classified as a multi-county, special
district unit of local government. It is governed by a Governing
Bcard consisting of non-paid members appointed'by the Governer and
co firmed by the Senate.
We serve as Board Counsel, handling a great variety of work
ani monthly billing statements which are based on accurate time
Section 373.079(5), F.S.
(5) The Governing Board may employ a legal staff for the
(a) Providing legal counsel on matters relating to the
exercise of its powers and duties;
(b) Representing it in all proceedings of an administra-
tive or judicial nature; and
(c) Otherwise assisting in the administration of the
Provisions of this Chapter.
In accordance with the statutes we advise staff members and
boird members relating to their official duties and conduct in
be alf of the District. This includes briefing board members and
af ected staff members in compliance with the Code of Ethics of
pu lic officers and employees, especially since the passage of
Chapter 75-208 Laws of Florida, requiring financial disclosure.
On May 13, 1976 we wrote the Commission on Ethics requesting
an advisory opinion to establish the standard of duty a board member
wo ld have under certain specific circumstances. In this letter we
ad ised the Commission on Ethics that we represented the District
an members of the Governing Board and that one member had asked us
to request an advisory opinion of any particular standard of duty he
ha3 insofar as it relates to his continued service on the Governing
Bo rd in connection with certain specified activities.
On the following day a confidential complaint was filed with the
Commission on Ethics by an elected official alleging that the Board
me ber had violated certain of the statutory sections of the Code of
On June 10, 1976 in a confidential letter we advised the Commis;ion
on Ethics that we represent the District and the particular member of
O th Governing Board in connection with the request for advisory opinion
an also represent the Governing Board member in connection with I tlh
co plaint filed. (It should be noted that the complaint i:; coni() i denti,
P ge No. 2
p rsuant to S112.324, F.S., until the alleged violator requests
i writing that such investigation and records be made public
r cords, or the preliminary investigation is completed. The
r quest or the advisory opinion is not confidential.)
We have advised the investigator for the Commission on Ethics
t at at the present time we are representing the Board members and
b lieve the issue to be a District matter. We further advised that
s would there appear to be a conflict in our representing him as well
a the District, that we have advised that we would withdraw from
r presenting the Board member. We further advised the investigator
t at we will bill the Board member for any extra work on his behalf.
The question now arises as to whether we have professional
conflict in representing both the District and the Board member.
On August 11, 1976 David G. McGunegle, Assistant Staff Counsel
f r the Florida Bar, gave a Staff Counsel informal Ethics Opinion
7 T-270 in response to a quarry as to whether professional conflict
would arise for the County Attorney, who also engages in private
p actice of law in addition to his Court work for the County, has
a professional conflict in representing a County Commissioner who
his been charged before the Ethics Commission with misuse of his
p blic office. The informal opinion concludes that the attorney
s would withdraw from representing the County Commissioner before
t e Ethics Commission since, in defending his client against the
c arge, the attorney may be required to impeach the testimony of
C unty employees, while at the same time, he has an obligation to
v gilantly guard the interest of the public.
The informal opinion also points out the Ethics Opinion 73-19
w ich indicates the public cannot waive its interest in a conflict
At the moment I lean toward agreeing that we should withdraw
o0 the following basis:
1) We can't disclose our representation on the violations
c arge since the matter is confidential. If full disclosure cannot
b given, and there is a potential conflicting situation, there's
n way to resolve the matter. If it were not confidential, we could
t en make a full disclosure to both parties and have the Board offici-
a ly concur that there was no conflict.
2) Even if we could do the above, the Board represents the public
aid Opinion 73-19, in referring to its earlier Opinion 67-5 points out
t at the public cannot waive a conflict of interest such as the instant
I Ik- N.. i\:IE'vIEN CO.l &, 'IIA
ifl Ni*v M <'ta>rN. .1.1111 / l.\u'
I MA1.11igIlN\ SIN I:I:r. I.41. 11$%\ I:11m:l
T .1 II'.\. l*'l.iiltll>\ ;1lt: i
May 1B, 1976
norable Larry Gonzalez,
sion on Ethics
bassee, FL 32302
I. 1 ;. tI II ,tllll.ll I t ..1 :(
1t3 111 M AIll\I I \)tll? t. 3.5 .
I1- I -1 11.I1 11 1. '1111 11 It. I \ff .S \
111 1 I1 II, t I II i I 11 1t 1. I I %s 1 I
.1. 11Il it 1 I1t. W11.1.1 51 It. 11 t 1 r
,Al III It I ;l *>III1I N It%1- V 1 :. I t I.K
t %111i 1 I ., 4 .I 1iit '. t11%11i it. t1 111. .0i .
%1'1 11il 1.. oi .it A Q'I illi .L t II. AII. T
111ti11 V*-. iWII.I.IAMtt
.)I III\ .v 11S:1 11 Si>
te: 3. C. Pexley, Jr., Member
Southwest Florida Water M.anagement District
We represent Southwest Florida Tater Management District and
embers of the governing board. Mr. Rexley has asked us to
st an advisory opinion to establish the standard of duty under
Bexley is a member of the governing board of Southwest
orida Water Management District, a public corporation created
rsuant to chapter 61-691, Laws afdFlorida, and to chapter 373,
e District is implementing a program for consurptivo use of
ter permits under authority of Part II of the W'ater Resources
t of 1972, chapter 373, F.S., throughout most of the district
cluding all of Pasco County.
Rexley, or members of his immediate family, or corporations
ned by them, own 15,000 acres of land in Pasco County, having
quired title thereto in 1949.
r several months, the County Commissioners of ?asco County have
en negotiating with Mr. Pexley to acquire the right to use
00 acres of the 15000 acre tract for the purpose of establish-
g a source of potable water for public supply and the parties
d enter into a contract therefore on .'ay 12, 1976. !'nder terms
the contract, the first payment will be due on January, 1977.
der provisions of district rules set forth in chapter 1IJ, 7la.
Im. Code, Pasco County will 'e required to o tain certain permlts
'om the district t before establishing the well field or inaking
T--TUON.S TTin R. McliWELN. SMTT -OFER & TAUD CONTINUING OUR LrTTII or
I-lay 135, 1976 stF No
The honorable Larry Gonzalez 76-31
w thdrawals of water.
6. N permits for such construction and withdrawal exist or are
Please advise .Mr. Bexley of any particular standard of duty
he his insofar as it relates to his continued service on the
gove ning board:
A. It connection with adoption of rules by the District relating
t> consumptive use permits.
B. Ii connection with consideration of applications by Pasco
C unty for permits to construct and operate a wellfield on
the 5,000 acre tract.
C. IM connection with consideration of applications by others
f>r permits to construct and operate water wells on adjacent
D. A y other matters particularly relevant to Mr. ?cxley.
Within the next few days I will provide you with a copy of
S the contract and any additional information you might desire.
L. M. Blain
By DALE WILSON .
Times Staff Writer
The state ethics commission has ex-
onerated Land O'Lakes" ranch owner
and Southwest Florida Water Manage-
ment District (SWFWMD) board mem-
ber S.C. "Bud" Bexley of any conflict of
interest in his recent bid to sell Pasco
County water rights from his sprawling
Bonnie Johnson, spokeswoman for
the ethics commission, said today "no
probable cause was found" that Bexley
violated the law in his dealings with the
county, because Bexley "made. every ef-
fort to disclose the contract (between
himself and the county), and made
every attempt to seek an advisory opin-
ion from the commission" on the move.
The commission ruled on the con-
flict of interest question at a special
Shearing in Tallahassee on Dec. 15. A
letter of their opinion was sent to Bex-
ley's attorney, Douglas Stowell, last
week. Bexley was unavailable for com-
Last May 11, Bexley agreed to sell
Pasco County water tights to 5,000
acres of his 15,000-acre ranchlands. for
$1.6 million. Several days later state
SSen. Henry Sayler, R-St. Petersburg,
sent a formal complaint to the ethics
commission, charging- the move con-
stituted a conflict of interest, because of
Bexley's seat on the SWFWMD govern-
As a SWFWMD board member,
SBexley would have had to vote on the
amount of water that could be pumped
from the 5,000 acres, under
!; SWFWMD's consumptive-use permit-
* ting program, and would have made
Board decisions on every facet of the
Swellfield operation. He said at a May
3 SWFWMD board meeting that he
9 would abstain from voting on the issue.
S. "Bud" Bexley
S .. -*' .*^ /'
...no conflict seen
In July, the question was rendered
moot, when Pasco County officials
backed out of the deal, due to a lack of
funds to complete the purchase. Voters
in that county defeated a bond issue
that would have financed a pipeline
'from the water-rich ranchlands to
thirsty west Pasco cities and areas.
- West Pasco County, especially the
.City of New Port Richey, has faced a
water crisis in the past year, because of
dwindling water supplies. A' new well-
field built several miles to the east of
that retirement town has failed to meet
increasing water demands.
A spokesman for Bexley said the
ranchowner does not plan to reconsider
the issue of selling water rights to any
en in t'
n : dete
in how 1
r with the
)F the difficult pro- deal to his fellow board mem-
bringing the talents bers, filed a conflict of interest
abilities of successful statement with the state, and
te private sector into subsequently asked the Ethics
'vice has always been Commission for a ruling. The
-mining, the point entire affair was aired through
businessman's private the press.
begin to conflict with There are interests in the
responsibilities, water management district
brida Ethics Commis- that would like to see the dis-
Southwest Florida trict and its powers destroyed.
Management Board In this situation Bexley
S.C. "Bud" Bexley quickly became a target of
n public officials and criticism.
usinessnien a lesson But last week the Ethics
his sort of difficulty Commission ruled on the case.
indled correctly. The No conflict of interest was
es through the route found because Bexley "made
,ss and candor. every effort to disclose the
a rancher, was ap- contract" and "made every ef-
by Pasco County fort to seek an advisory opin-
aim of purchasing ion from the commission."
hts. As a member of Although the question was
D he would have the rendered moot when Pasco-.
ility of ruling on withdrew from the contract,
limitations on the the Bexley case stands as a
:hts Pasco sought 'to landmark for other'-business-
,, men-public officials in the dif-
,almost immediately ficult area of regulating their
transaction was initi- private .interests and their
ounced the proposed public lives.
' ~A ..~. Y
rhe t ampa ime 9 9
:J. Ste, aort Bryan' ..... ...... .............. ........ Publisher
S ichar IF. Pittman ............... Vice President & General Manager
?Sam i ckney ............ ............. Editorial Page Editor
" ruce itwer .. .. ... .. ............... Managing Editor