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Official Opinion 97-12

Official Opinion 97-12

March 31, 1997
To: 

State Superintendent of Schools

Re: 

Local school board members may not provide professional services for compensation to the school systems they represent.

You have recently asked for my opinion as to "whether or not local school board members may provide professional services to the school system they represent." You have provided as an example a physician who serves on a local board of education and who is employed by the school system on a referral panel of physicians for workers' compensation purposes. It is my official opinion that under Georgia law they may not.

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 20-2-505(a) states in its entirety:

No member of any county board of education in this state shall sell to any county board any supplies or equipment used, consumed, or necessary in the operation of any public school in this state.

Although this statute was originally enacted by the General Assembly in 1943, 1943 Ga. Laws 273 et seq., there is no reported Georgia judicial decision which interprets it. This Office has previously opined, however, that the underlying policy of this statute extends its prohibition to the sale of services, as well as to the sale of supplies or equipment. 1970 Op. Att'y Gen. U70-138, p. 321. See also 1954-56 Op. Att'y Gen. p. 187; 1960-61 Op. Att'y Gen. p. 147; 1965-66 Op. Att'y Gen. 65-80. This interpretation is based on the common

law rule that "no public agent may make a profit out of public business entrusted to his [or her] care." 1965-66 Op. Att'y Gen. 65-80, p. 132 (citing Hulgan v. Gledhill, 207 Ga. 349 (1950); Trainer v. City of Covington, 183 Ga. 759 (1937)). To make a profit from professional services rendered would be just as impermissible as to make a profit from the sale of supplies or equipment. See Ga. Const. 1983, Art. I, Sec. II, Para. I.

The prohibition of O.C.G.A. § 20-2-505(a), however, would not apply "in the case of ownership of public utilities, such as telephone companies, where the service is essential, where it cannot be obtained from another source, and where rates are regulated by an agency such as the Public Service Commission." 1970 Op. Att'y Gen. U70-138, p. 321-22. Such a determination would need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

It is, therefore, my official opinion that local school board members may not provide professional services for compensation to the school systems they represent.

Prepared by:

KATHRYN L. ALLEN Senior Assistant Attorney General

CHRISTOPHER A. MCGRAW
Assistant Attorney General