CEO 76-58 -- March 16, 1976
JOINT CITIZEN-STAFF REVIEW COMMITTEE
APPLICABILITY OF CODE OF ETHICS TO MEMBERS
To: Frank A. Howard, Jr., Attorney, Dade County School Board, Miami
Prepared by: Gene Rhodes
A joint citizen-staff review committee, appointed by a district school board for the purpose of reviewing an audit of the school system, is deemed to be an advisory body inasmuch as the committee's sole function is to study such audit and make recommendations to the school board as to resource allocations and utilization. Members of such committee therefore are not subject to disclosure requirements of the Code of Ethics. In response to the question as to whether the school board may appoint to such committee persons active in businesses which do business with the school system, reference is made to CEO 76-7 and CEO 76-15 which state the general rule regarding a public officer or his private employer doing business with his public agency. As members have not yet been appointed, no specific advice may be given as to the propriety of particular appointments.
1. Once appointed, will members of the Joint Citizen-Staff Review Committee of the Dade County School Board be required to file annual statements of financial disclosure?
2. Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created if the Chairman of the Dade County School Board were to appoint members to the Joint Citizen- Staff Review Committee who are active in businesses which do business with the public school system?
Question 1 is answered in the negative.
Your letter of inquiry advises us that the Dade County School Board recently directed that an advisory body entitled a "Joint Citizen-Staff Review Committee" be established to review the studies produced by the auditing firm recently retained by the school board. The committee's sole function appears to be the rendering of the committee's reactions and recommendations to the school board relating to resource allocations and utilization in the school system.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees requires that "local officers" file statements of financial interests within 30 days of the date of appointment to office. The code further defines the term "local officer" to include
[a]ny appointed member of a board, commission, authority, community college district board of trustees, or council of any political subdivision of the state, excluding any member of an advisory body . . . . [Fla. Stat. s. 112.3145(2)(1975).]
The Code of Ethics further defines an advisory body to mean
. . . any board, commission, committee, council, or authority, however selected, whose total budget, appropriations, or authorized expenditures constitute less than 1 percent of the budget of each agency it serves or $100,000, whichever is less, and whose powers, jurisdiction, and authority are solely advisory and do not include the final determination or adjudication of any personal or property rights, duties, or obligations, other than those relating to its internal operations. [Fla. Stat. s. 112.312(1)(1975).]
You have advised us that the Joint Citizen-Staff Review Committee's budget is less than 1 percent of the School Board's budget and that it is less than $100,000. It is clear that the duties of the committee are solely advisory. Accordingly, the committee is an advisory body within the meaning of the Code of Ethics and its members are not deemed to be "local officers" subject to financial disclosure.
As to question 2, your letter of inquiry advises us that some, if not all, of the members of the committee will be active in businesses which do business with the school system. We understand that, because of the nature of the advice to be rendered by the committee, it is essential that it be composed of members who possess management and financial experience. It is your contention that to fulfill this need the chairman must appoint bankers whose banks act as depositories and lenders to the school system and other members who are active in businesses which sell or provide goods or services to the school system.
Notwithstanding the fact that committee members are not "local officers" under provisions of Fla. Stat. s. 112.3145(1)(a) for purposes of financial disclosure, they are "public officers" subject to the standards of conduct provisions of the Code of Ethics. See Fla. Stat. s. 112.313(1)(1975). As to bankers who are affiliated with banks that act as depositories or lenders to the school system, please find enclosed a copy of a previous opinion of this commission, CEO 75-195, the rationale of which is equally applicable to this aspect of your inquiry.
As to other potential members who are affiliated with businesses that sell or provide goods or services to the school system, please find enclosed two recent opinions of this commission, CEO 76-7 and CEO 76-15, the rationales of which are equally applicable to the instant situation. These two opinions state the general rule regarding a public officer or his private employer doing business with his public agency. Please note that in a specific situation which would appear to fall within the restrictions of s. 112.313(3) or (7), we could determine that no prohibited conflict exists if the private business or employment would not interfere with the full and faithful discharge of the public officer's duties. See Fla. Stat. s. 112.316(1975). We understand that you were unable to present us with a specific situation inasmuch as committee members have not been selected as yet.
Your question is answered accordingly.