CEO 77-29 -- March 9, 1977
ADVISORY COMMITTEES TO PLANNING BOARD
APPLICABILITY OF DISCLOSURE LAW TO MEMBERS
To: John C. Bottcher, Department of Environmental Regulation, Tallahassee
Prepared by: Bonnie Johnson
Reference is made to CEO's 76-78 and 76-120. Pursuant to the definition of "local officer" contained in s. 112.3145(1)(a)2., F. S. 1975, which excludes from the category of advisory bodies those boards with responsibilities in the area of land planning, members of advisory committees to an area planning board constitute local officers subject to the annual filing of financial disclosure. The area planning board, however, has no responsibility to assure that members of its advisory committees comply with requirements of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees other than its general duty to appoint to those committees citizens without apparent conflicts of interest.
1. Are members of the Policy Advisory Committee, the Technical Advisory Committee, the Citizens Advisory Committee, and the Areawide Advisory Group, established to advise the Palm Beach County Area Planning Board, local officers subject to the annual filing of financial disclosure?
2. Does the area planning board have any responsibility to assure that members of its advisory committees comply with requirements of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees?
Question 1 is answered in the affirmative.
You advise in your letter of inquiry and supplemental materials that the Palm Beach County Area Planning Board, pursuant to requirements contained in s. 208 of Public Law 92-500, has appointed members to three advisory committees responsible for making recommendations to the Area Planning Board (APB). The Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) is the chief advisory body, responsible for forwarding to the planning board written policy recommendations following receipt of input from other advisory bodies. The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which is composed of individuals with technical expertise related to the "208" program from both the public and private sectors, forwards comments relative to technical sufficiency of "208" proposals to the PAC. The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) is composed primarily of private persons representing various interest groups, whose input is forwarded also to the PAC. A fourth body, the Areawide Advisory Group (AAG), is comprised of one elected or appointed official and one or more private citizens from each municipality in the area, appointed by that municipality. The AAG acts, outside of public hearings, as a "sounding board" for citizen input relative to the "208" program. Our staff has been advised by Mr. James P. Fleishmann, Principal Planner for the APB, that the "208" program involves planning both as to land use and water quality.
Enclosed please find two previous opinions of this commission, CEO's 76-78 and 76-120, the rationales of which are equally applicable to your inquiry. Your question is answered accordingly in the affirmative. In further clarification of several points raised in your inquiry, we would point out that the definition of "local officer" makes no distinction between voting and nonvoting members of boards, or between those which make formal recommendations and others which are less structured.
You may be interested to know that this commission has proposed to the Legislature a revision of the disclosure law which would exempt from disclosure members of planning and natural resources boards whose actions neither are final or binding on another body whose action is final nor of such a nature that positive action of another body is required to reverse or supersede them. Should members of the subject boards wish to register their support for such amendment of the law, we recommend that they so advise their local legislative delegation.
Question 2 is answered in the negative.
Section 112.3145(2), F. S. (1976 Supp.), requires that each state officer, local officer, specified employee, and candidate for state or local elective office annually file a statement of financial interests. Accordingly, as we have stated previously in CEO 76-95, the responsibility for the filing of disclosure, as well as for its accuracy and thoroughness of completion, rests with the person subject to disclosure. Similarly, the standards of conduct provisions of the code are addressed to public officers, public employees, and, in some instances, candidates for elective public office. The primary responsibility for adherence to the standards accordingly lies again with the subject person. We have advised previously, however, that, based upon his oath of office, a public official has an affirmative duty to see that employees within his supervisory charge do not have conflicts between private interests and public duties. See CEO 75-10. As the area planning board appoints members to three advisory committees, APB members are similarly situated insofar as they have an affirmative responsibility to appoint persons with no clear private interest which potentially would impair their ability to function in the public interest. We recognize, however, that APB members are not in a position to know all the private pursuits of all appointees. Therefore, the APB has no responsibility for the conduct of its appointees beyond the above- noted general guideline for appointment.