CEO 01-14 -- July 31, 2001
GIFT ACCEPTANCE AND DISCLOSURE
LEGISLATOR RENTING OFFICE SPACE FROM CITY
To: The Honorable Carey L. Baker, Member, Florida House of Representative, District 25 (Eustis)
The definition of "gift" in Section 112.312(12), Florida Statutes, excludes the "use of a public facility or public property, made available by a governmental agency, for a public purpose." Therefore, where a legislator leases, at a nominal fee, space for his district office from a municipality, he has not received a "gift" for purposes of Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes.
Has a legislator received a "gift" for purposes of Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes, when he leases his district office space from a municipality for a nominal fee?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letter of inquiry, you relate that you lease your district office from the City of Eustis for a nominal fee. The offices are located in the City's Senior Center, and your verbal lease with the City is renewable on an annual basis. You question whether your lease of this discounted office space is a gift which should be reported pursuant to Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes.
The definition of "gift" in Section 112.312(12) provides:
(a) 'Gift,' for purposes of ethics in government and financial disclosure required by law, means that which is accepted by a donee or by another on the donee's behalf, or that which is paid or given to another for or on behalf of a donee, directly, indirectly, or in trust for the donee's benefit or by any other means, for which equal or greater consideration is not given, including:
. . .
2. The use of real property.
. . .
14. Any other similar service or thing having an attributable value not already provided for in this section.
(b) 'Gift' does not include:
. . .
6. The use of a public facility or public property, made available by a governmental agency, for a public purpose.
Section 112.3148(4), Florida Statutes, prohibits a reporting individual from accepting a gift with a value in excess of $100 from a lobbyist who lobbies his agency, or from the partner, firm, principal, or employer of a lobbyist.
The initial question which must be addressed is whether your discounted office space is a "gift" from the City of Eustis. In CEO 94-38, we opined that the telephone equipment and services provided to the Hillsborough County legislative delegation was a gift for purposes of the gift law, notwithstanding the statutory exemption in Section 112.312(12)(b)6 for the "use of a public facility or public property, made available by a governmental agency, for a public purpose." In that opinion, we construed the exemption to cover the short-term use of an agency's facilities, but not its equipment and services, like telephones. We were concerned that a broad construction would render meaningless Section 112.3148(6), Florida Statutes, which allows certain public agencies who retain or employ lobbyists to give gifts with a value in excess of $100 to reporting individuals and procurement employees but requires their disclosure. While we do not recede from that view, we do believe that the language of the exemption in Section 112.312(12)(b)6 should be construed to address the situation here, where a governmental entity leases office space to a legislator for his district office at a reduced rate, as there is clearly a public purpose in maintaining an office where constituents can meet with their elected representative in a convenient location.
Accordingly, we find that a legislator has not received a "gift" for purposes of Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes, when he rents space for his district office from a municipality at a discounted rate.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on July 26, 2001 and RENDERED this 31st day of July, 2001.