CEO 74-85 -- December 23, 1974
APPLICABILITY OF FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE LAW TO A PART-TIME MUNICIPAL ATTORNEY
To: Gilbert T. Brophy, Town Attorney, Town of Jupiter
Prepared by: Gene L. "Hal" Johnson
City attorneys are included within the definition of the term "public officer" set forth in s. 112.312(7)(i), F. S., as amended by Ch. 74-177, Laws of Florida; retention on a full-time or part-time basis is not a determinative factor in deciding whether a certain attorney is, in fact, a municipality's "city attorney." Mr. Brophy performs several and substantial services for the Town of Jupiter, including acting as town prosecutor, drafting zoning regulations, and representing the municipality on legal matters. Further, he is designated as "town attorney." Mr. Brophy is therefore a public officer within the meaning of, and subject to the provisions of, part III, Ch. 112, supra.
Is an attorney retained by the Town of Jupiter on a part-time basis within the meaning of the term "public officer" as used in part III, Ch. 112, F. S., as amended by Ch. 74-177, Laws of Florida, and therefore subject to the disclosure provisions required of public officers?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
The term "public officer" is defined in part III, supra, to include "[a]ll . . . city attorneys . . . ." Section 112.312(7)(i), supra. It is our position that the determination as to whether a certain attorney is a municipality's "city attorney" is not dependent upon his being retained on a full-time or part-time basis. The determinative factors are whether the municipality views a specific attorney as its attorney or whether a single attorney handles the majority of the municipality's legal work.
The rationale behind this position is that such an attorney necessarily functions in a capacity where he can exert a significant amount of power and influence over municipal policy and decisions. Therefore, in order to ensure that this influence is not used to foster personal, rather than public, interests, the "city attorney" is made subject to the Code of Ethics, Ch. 112, F. S., as amended by Ch. 74-177, Laws of Florida.
The services you perform for the Town of Jupiter are substantial, running the gamut from being town prosecutor to the drafting of the municipality's zoning regulations. You also represent the municipality on numerous other legal matters. Disregarding the fact that you are retained on a part-time basis, it is apparent that you handle the majority of the city's legal affairs. Furthermore, you are designated as "town attorney."
Therefore, it is our conclusion that you are the "city attorney" for the Town of Jupiter within the meaning of s. 112.312(7)(i), supra, and thus are subject to those provisions of the Code of Ethics, part III, Ch. 112, supra, relating to public officers.
Please note that any regulation of you, as an attorney, is merely coincidental to your regulation as a public officer under the provisions of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees. While you are subject as an attorney to regulation by the Supreme Court of Florida, this does not exempt you as a public officer from the application of the Code of Ethics.