CEO 75-149 -- July 9, 1975
LEGAL AID SERVICE
APPLICABILITY OF CODE OF ETHICS TO BOARD OF DIRECTORS
To: Barry N. Klein, Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc., Fort Lauderdale
Prepared by: Jeff Trammel
A legal aid service which constitutes a nonprofit corporation does not fall within the purview of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees. Although the county commission appoints five of the fifteen directors of the corporation and aids in the corporation's funding, the legal aid service exercises no public sovereignty. Members of the service's board of directors therefore are not deemed to be public officers under the Code of Ethics and consequently are not subject to financial disclosure requirements.
Are the members of the Board of Directors of Legal Aid Services of Broward County, Inc., a nonprofit corporation created to provide legal assistance to indigents, public officers when the county commission allocates funds to the corporation and appoints one-third of the board of directors?
Your question is answered in the negative.
The various documents you submitted indicate that this nonprofit corporation was created for the sole purpose of rendering legal aid services to indigent persons in Broward County. The Broward County Commission charges a $3 filing fee for all civil actions filed in the County and Circuit Courts of Broward. These fees are diverted to the corporation in question and are "to be used exclusively for the purpose of establishing, equipping, furnishing and maintaining a program making legal services available to the indigent and needy general public in Broward County." Broward County Ordinance No. 73- 5. The board of directors is selected under the following formula: Five are appointed by the county commission; five are appointed by the Broward County Bar Association; and the remaining five, all of whom shall be nonattorneys, shall be appointed by the previously selected ten members.
Despite the county's involvement in the selection of board members and the funding of the corporation's operation, the question presented is whether entities such as nonprofit corporations fall within the scope of Florida's Code of Ethics for public officers. We are of the opinion that a board must possess some regulatory function or other manifestation of delegation of sovereignty before it would fall within the purview of the code. In that the Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc., is not of the genre of public entities to which the code applies, the members of its board of directors do not qualify as public officers and are consequently not subject to financial disclosure requirements.