CEO 01-11 -- June 12, 2001
APPLICABILITY OF FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE LAW TO MEMBERS OF COMMUNITY PLANNING PANELS
To: Donna Marie Collins, Assistant Lee County Attorney (Fort Myers)
Unless specifically made such by local government action, members of community land-use planning panels are not "local officers" required to make disclosures under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes, inasmuch as the panels only have the power to make planning and zoning recommendations. CEO's 89-25 and 00-19 are referenced.
Are the members of community land-use planning panels "local officers" subject to the disclosure requirements of Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes?
Your question is answered in the negative, subject to their potential inclusion within the definition by local government action.
By your letter of inquiry, an accompanying document, other correspondence between you and our staff, and a telephone conversation between you and our staff, we are advised that Lee County is contemplating codifying a means by which organizations within communities within unincorporated portions of the County can receive public funds to assist in their development of suggestions for additions or revisions to the County's comprehensive land-use plan. Further, we are advised that such funding assistance would be provided to community panels (natural persons selected by and acting in behalf of legal entities) via grant agreements with the County. In addition, by telephone you confirmed that the members of the panels will not be selected by the County Commission or any County personnel, but, rather, that they will be selected by their respective community organizations/entities. Regarding relevant history of this matter, you state:
By way of background, unincorporated Lee County consists of many diverse communities. On occasion, members of these communities have started 'grass roots efforts' to prepare a community plan to address local issues. The Board of County Commissioners has historically supported these grass roots planning efforts and recognizes that the adoption of community plans within the County's Comprehensive Land Use Plan serves to strengthen the effectiveness of the Plan. The preparation of a community plan requires significant effort by the local community, often requiring professional planning, engineering, and technical expertise. The Board desires to encourage the pursuit of community planning with communities that may not have the financial resources to compensate the professionals needed to collaborate on such an effort. The enclosed [proposed] administrative code establishes a set of procedures and criteria that must be complied with before the County Commissioners will consider providing financial assistance to defray the costs associated with the preparation of a community plan.
In view of the foregoing, you inquire as the whether the members of such panels would be "local officers" subject to Section 112.3145.
In relevant part, with emphasis supplied, the statute defines "local officer" to mean
2. Any appointed member of any of the following boards, councils, commissions, authorities, or other bodies of any county, municipality, school district, independent special district, or other political subdivision of the state:
e. A planning or zoning board, board of adjustment, board of appeals, or other board having the power to recommend, create, or modify land planning or zoning within the political subdivision, except for citizen advisory committees, technical coordinating committees, and such other groups who only have the power to make recommendations to planning or zoning boards; [Section 112.3145(1)(a)2.e, Florida Statutes (2000).]
We find that prior to the enactment of Chapter 2000-243, Laws of Florida, which amended the definition of "local officer," the members of the panels likely would have been found by us to have come within the then applicable definition. See CEO 89-25, in which we found that members of the Jacksonville Planning Advisory Committee were "local officers." However, under application of the newly-amended definition, we find that the panel members are not "local officers" under Section 112.3145(1)(a)2.e, in that they only have the power to make recommendations regarding planning and zoning. See CEO 00-19, in which we found that the new statutory language removed appointed members of citizen committees with only the power to make recommendations regarding land-planning and zoning from the definition of "local officer."
Accordingly, we find that members of community land-use planning panels are not "local officers" subject to the disclosure requirements of Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes, unless they are required by local governmental action to file a statement of financial interests.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on June 7, 2001 and RENDERED this 12th day of June, 2001.
Filings under Section 112.3145 include Statement of Financial Interests (CE Form 1) and Quarterly Client Disclosure (CE Form 2).
Prior to the recent amendment, the statute defined "local officer" to mean, inter alia, "[a]ny appointed member of a board . . ., excluding any member of an advisory body"; and the statute previously stated that "[a] governmental body with land-planning, zoning, or natural resources responsibilities shall not be considered an advisory body."
In CEO 89-25, we solidified our view that the members were "appointed," notwithstanding that they were (as is the situation in your inquiry) selected by community organizations and not by a governmental body.
That the panels will have only the power to make recommendations is supported by Section 8 of the County's draft codification, which provides, with emphasis supplied:
8.1 Following submittal of suggested amendments to the Lee Plan, Planning Division staff will conduct a complete evaluation and analysis of the proposal.
8.2 Lee County will consider comprehensive plan amendments suggested in community plans as part of the regular yearly amendment process. Those amendments will be reviewed, evaluated and considered in the same manner as any other proposed Lee Plan amendment. This review will follow the procedures and public notification required by Florida Statutes section 163.3178 and Lee County Administrative Code 13-6: Annual Plan Amendment Procedure to the Lee Plan.
8.3 The Board of County Commissioners reserves the right to adopt, not adopt or modify any and all of the community plan's suggestions.
However, we note that Section 112.3145(1)(a)2.g, Florida Statutes (2000), also defines "local officer" to mean
[a]ny other appointed member of a local government board who is required to file a statement of financial interests by the appointing authority or the enabling legislation, ordinance, or resolution creating the board.
In view of this language, also new via Chapter 2000-243, the County Commission is faced with the policy choice of whether or not to expressly denominate the panel members as "local officers," thereby subjecting them to the various disclosure requirements of Section 112.3145, in its actual adoption of relevant additions to its administrative code.
Note that if they are required to file such a statement (CE Form 1), they become "local officers," and are thus subject to all of the disclosures of Section 112.3145 (e.g. CE Form 2, Quarterly Client Disclosure, when applicable), not merely to the filing of CE Form 1.