CEO 75-101 -- April 28, 1975
APPLICABILITY OF FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE LAW TO EACH MEMBER OF A LAW FIRM SERVING AS CITY ATTORNEY
To: Charles M. Gadd, Jr., Attorney, Gainesville
Prepared by: Lawrence A. Gonzalez
Section 112.312(7)(i), F. S. (1974 Supp.), defines "public officer" to include city attorneys. In the event that a legal firm is employed to serve as attorney for a municipality and compensation for services is paid into the firm's general funds, any member of the firm who at any time during the disclosure period performed the duties of city attorney is deemed to be a public officer for purposes of financial disclosure.
Are each of the members of the law firm of which I am an associate who occasionally perform the duties of city attorney "public officers" within the meaning of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees and therefore subject to the financial disclosure provisions of this law?
We understand the facts of this inquiry to be as follows: The law firm of Clayton, Duncan, Johnston, Clayton, Quincey, Ireland & Felder, of which you are an associate, has been retained by the City of Archer and the Town of LaCrosse as the city attorney. Initially, Mr. James S. Quincey, a partner in your firm, handled the majority of the city attorney duties for these two municipalities. Later this function was assigned by the firm to you. At the present time you handle over 90 percent of these city attorney responsibilities. When you are unable to attend city council or other public meetings or when a matter arises requiring litigation or concerning an issue in which another member of your firm has more expertise, the matter is passed on to an appropriate member of the firm for handling. Billings for services are sent on firm letterhead and sums received therefor are paid into the firm's general funds.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees designates city attorneys as "public officers" for the purposes of this law. Section 112.312(7)(i), F. S. (1974 Supp.). In the absence of specific statutory guidance as to what constitutes a city attorney as used herein, we are of the opinion that when a firm, as opposed to a specific firm member, contracts to serve as city attorney, any member of the firm who may perform the duties of city attorney is a "public officer" for the purposes of the Code of Ethics. Therefore, any member who serves the municipality in that capacity is subject to the financial disclosure provisions of part III, Ch. 112, F. S., the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees.