A Florida Commission on Ethics staff report finds little reason to believe Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson faces a conflict of interest between his duties as an elected official and those as president of the local public relations firm he runs.
Carlson is the top official for Tucker/Hall, which serves clients in both Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.
After his election, Carlson, through Tampa City Council Attorney Martin Shelby, posed a series of questions to the ethics commission to ensure he was not violating any ethics provisions through conflicts of interests between his business and elected duties.
In a letter to the commission, Shelby asked if a prohibited conflict of interest would be created if a city council member’s company provided services for a client related to a matter that might come before the board.
In its response, the commission wrote that Florida statute would prohibit a City Council member from having employment or a contractual relationship with a business entity regulated by or doing business with City council. The report found Carlson, in his capacity as President of Tucker/Hall, could have such a relationship, but because his company is not regulated by and does not have a business relationship with the city, there is no conflict of interest.
The report also evaluated whether Carlson’s interest in his company, through its clients’ potential dealings with the city, represented a conflict that “may tempt him to dishonor any responsibilities he has as a member of the City Council.” The inquiry found no conflict there, either.
In previous correspondence with the Commission on Ethics, Shelby pointed out that Carlson’s duties with the company are largely strategic in nature while his dealings with clients represent a very minimal portion of his day-to-day duties.
Carlson, through Shelby, also asked whether there would be circumstances in which his company’s work for a client could present a conflict as a sitting City Council member and, if so, what those circumstances would be.
The report reiterates the broad non-existence of conflicts, but cautions such a conflict could arise should Carlson ever be personally involved in a contractual relationship in which business with the city is required.
If Carlson’s firm were working on behalf of a client that involved a lawsuit against the city, the report notes that could also pose a conflict.
The Florida Commission on Ethics report has not yet been adopted and is subject to approval at its next public meeting July 26.