CEO 82-30 -- May 20, 1982
DISCLOSURE OF PROPERTY OWNED BY ELECTED CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICERS WHO ARE HUSBAND AND WIFE
To: Mr. H. W. "Bill" Suber, Seminole County Property Appraiser; Mrs. Joyce D. Suber, Gulf County Property Appraiser
Assuming that property owned by two constitutional officers meets the thresholds for financial disclosure reporting, property owned together as tenants by the entirety should be reported by each official at its full value, and property otherwise owned together should be reported at its proportionate value. If there is a joint bank account where each official is authorized to withdraw the full amount, the full value of the account should be disclosed. Property owned by one spouse separately of the other should be disclosed only on the form of the official who owns that property. Explanatory notes to clarify financial disclosure would be appropriate.
Where two elected constitutional officers are married, how should each disclose property owned individually or jointly in making financial disclosure pursuant to the Sunshine Amendment and the Florida Statutes?
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you and your wife serve as the property appraisers for two counties. You question how to appropriately file financial disclosure statements.
At the present time, all elected constitutional officers must file two financial disclosure statements. Under Article II, Section 8, Florida Constitution (the Sunshine Amendment), an elected constitutional officer must file full and public disclosure by July 1 with the Secretary of State (Commission on Ethics Form 6). In addition, under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes, a Statement of Financial Interests is to be filed by noon, July 15 (Commission on Ethics Form 1). Local constitutional officers are to file these statements with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Please note, however, that effective October 1, 1982, such officers will not be required to file the two separate disclosures. See Chapter 82-98, Laws of Florida.
The statutory financial disclosure law requires the disclosure of real property in Florida when the person reporting owns in excess of five percent of the value of the property, excluding residences and vacation homes. Section 112.3145(3)(c), Florida Statutes. That provision also requires the disclosure of any intangible personal property worth in excess of ten percent of the disclosing person's total assets. The disclosure of ownership by one's spouse expressly is not required. Therefore, if the property is owned solely by the spouse of the reporting official, that property need not be disclosed on the official's disclosure statement. Where the property is owned by the official and his or her spouse as tenants by the entirety, each spouse is deemed to own the whole property, and such property should be valued at its full value in preparing the disclosure statement. See CEO 74-27. Where property is owned jointly, but not as tenants by the entirety, the property should be included in the disclosure statement based upon the percentage of the value of the jointly held property equal to the percentage of the official's joint ownership. See CEO 74-2. We have made an exception to this principle where a savings account is jointly owned by both spouses and each is authorized to withdraw all or any portion of the account without the other's consent. In such cases, the account should be valued at its full value rather than proportionately. See CEO 76-129.
The Sunshine Amendment requires the disclosure of each asset worth in excess of $1,000 and its value. Article II, Section 8(h)(1), Florida Constitution. Under this provision, we have advised that assets solely owned by the spouse of the reporting official need not be disclosed. See CEO 77-158 and CEO 78-37. We are of the opinion that the principles set forth above regarding statutory financial disclosure also should be applied in making full and public disclosure under the Sunshine Amendment. Therefore, if property is owned by the reporting official as a tenant by the entirety, the full value of the property should be disclosed. Where the property is owned by the reporting official and his or her spouse jointly (as joint tenants or as tenants in common), the property should be valued proportionately to the disclosing official's interests. Finally, if there is a joint bank account from which the official may withdraw all or part of the funds, the official is deemed to own the entire account and its value should be reported accordingly.
In summary, assuming that property meets the threshold for reporting, property owned together as tenants by the entirety should be reported by each official at its full value, and property otherwise owned together should be reported at its proportionate value, except for joint bank accounts where each of you is authorized to withdraw the full amount, in which case the full value of the account should be disclosed. In addition, property owned by one spouse separately of the other should be disclosed only on the form of the person who owns that property. If you feel that it would be helpful to explain the method of valuation or the form of ownership of particular property on the disclosure form, we are of the opinion that it would be appropriate to add an explanatory note on the disclosure form for clarification.