CEO 15-05—June 10, 2015
FOR OUTGOING ELECTED OFFICER
To: Andrew Smith III, Assistant City Attorney (City of Mount Dora)
Section 112.3142, Florida Statutes, would not require a constitutional officer or an elected municipal officer to complete ethics training in the calendar year in which the officer leaves public office.
Does Section 112.3142, Florida Statutes, require a City Council member to complete annual ethics training in the calendar year in which the officer leaves public office?
Your question is answered in the negative.
You have requested an opinion on behalf of the City Clerk of the City of Mount Dora who inquired about ethics training requirements for a former member of the City Council who served two days in office during 2015 prior to losing his bid for reelection. In your letter, you state that the City held a general election on November 4, 2014, during which an election for a Council seat resulted in a tie vote between the Council member (incumbent) and a challenger. You further state that the incumbent’s existing term of office continued until the election was ultimately decided, under Florida law, by a drawing of lots at a regular Council meeting on January 2, 2015. You state that the result of the drawing was in favor of the challenger, who was sworn in during the same Council meeting on January 2, 2015. As a result, the incumbent served just two days as an elected municipal officer during 2015. You ask whether the incumbent (now former Council member) is required to complete ethics training in 2015 under Section 112.3142, Florida Statutes, and, if so, how the former Council member should report such training.
Your scenario implicates Section 112.3142(2)(b), Florida Statutes, which states:
Beginning January 1, 2015, all elected municipal officers must complete 4 hours of ethics training each calendar year which addresses, at a minimum, s. 8, Art. II of the State Constitution, the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, and the public records and public meetings laws of this state. This requirement may be satisfied by completion of a continuing legal education class or other continuing professional education class, seminar, or presentation if the required subjects are covered.1
This provision requires elected municipal officers, including city council members, to complete four hours of ethics training each calendar year.2 This is our first opportunity to interpret the timing of this training requirement, which the Legislature enacted in 2014.3 The training time frame is further specified in Section 112.3142(2)(d), Florida Statutes, which provides:
The Legislature intends that a constitutional officer or elected municipal officer who is required to complete ethics training pursuant to this section receive the required training as close as possible to the date that he or she assumes office. A constitutional officer or elected municipal officer assuming a new office or new term of office on or before March 31 must complete the annual training on or before December 31 of the year in which the term of office began. A constitutional officer or elected municipal officer assuming a new office or new term of office after March 31 is not required to complete ethics training for the calendar year in which the term of office began.
This provision expresses a desire by the Legislature that an officer receive the training at a time near the date when he or she assumes office and requires that, if the officer assumes a new office or term of office prior to March 31, the officer must complete the training during that same year.
In your scenario, the final days of the former Council member’s term in office occurred on the first two days of calendar year 2015. Because he was in office during 2015, albeit for just two days, Section 112.3142(2)(b), standing alone, appears to require him to complete ethics training during 2015 because this provision requires training during “each calendar year.” However, we find that a former elected municipal officer or constitutional officer who is no longer in office is not required to complete ethics training in the year in which he or she leaves office. We reach this conclusion because requiring ethics training for the former Council member would lead to the absurd result of requiring him to attend ethics training while he is no longer in office. In Section 112.3142, Florida Statutes, the Legislature clearly contemplated that an elected officer is required to complete ethics training in each calendar year during which the officer serves throughout the full calendar year, but that such training is not necessarily required in a year when the officer serves in the office during only a portion of the calendar year. Therefore, we construe the statute to intend that an elected officer is not required to complete ethics training during the calendar year in which he or she leaves public office. As to your related question concerning reporting of ethics training, such reporting is unnecessary when the training is not required.
Your question is answered accordingly.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on June 5, 2015, and RENDERED this 10th day of June, 2015.
Linda McKee Robison, Chair
Section 112.3142(2)(a), Florida Statutes, provides an identical requirement applicable to “all constitutional officers,” as defined in Section 112.3142(1), Florida Statutes.
The required content of the ethics training is provided in Commission Rule 34-7.025, Florida Administrative Code.
Section 2, Chapter 2014-183, Laws of Florida.