CEO 84-38 -- June 7, 1984
APPLICABILITY OF DISCLOSURE LAW TO MEMBERS OF REGIONAL COORDINATING COUNCILS FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
To: Mr. O. L. "Ole" Ellis, Jr., Member, Region 3, Regional Coordinating Council for Vocational Education, Adult General Education, and Community Instructional Services
The members of a regional coordinating council for vocational education, adult general education, and community instructional services are "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes. The authority of the councils provided in Sections 228.075 and 228.076, Florida Statutes, is not solely advisory. CEO's 77-7 and 79-43 are referenced.
Are the members of a Regional Coordinating Council for Vocational Education, Adult General Education, and Community Instructional Services "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests annually?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you have been appointed to serve as a member of the Region 3 Regional Coordinating Council for Vocational Education, Adult General Education, and Community Instructional Services. Under Sections 228.073 through 228.076, Florida Statutes (1983), a regional coordinating council has been created for each of the twenty-eight community college districts.
Each council is composed of representatives of the school district(s), community college, state university, a vocational school, and the Department of Labor and Employment Security within the region, as well as lay members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Board of Education. The voting members of the council consist of the lay members, the community college president, and the school district superintendent(s). Generally speaking, the councils were created to coordinate vocational education, adult education, and community instructional programs between the community college and the school district(s) within each region in light of the needs of the labor market.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides that each "local officer" shall file a statement of financial interests within thirty days of appointment and annually thereafter by July 1. Section 112.3145(2)(b), Florida Statutes (1983). The term "local officer" is defined to include:
Any 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. A governmental body with land-planning, zoning, or natural resources responsibilities shall not be considered an advisory body. [Section 112.3145(1)(a)2, Florida Statutes (1983).]
The term "advisory body" is defined as
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. [Section 112.312(1), Florida Statutes (1983).]
We have reviewed the powers and duties of the councils as provided in Sections 228.075 and 228.076, Florida Statutes, in light of interpretations of these provisions provided to us by the General Counsel for the Florida Board of Education, for whose assistance we are grateful.
In our view, several of these responsibilities cannot be considered "solely advisory." Section 228.075(2)(b) provides that agreements among community colleges and school boards for these types of programs must be agreed to specifically by the council. If the council does not agree to a specific agreement, that agreement would not be of any effect, so that the councils exercise a veto power over these sorts of agreements. In addition, Section 228.076(2) provides that no new program of these types shall be eligible for State funding unless the program is approved by the appropriate regional coordinating council. In effect, this grants the council a veto power over new programs. Under Section 228.075(2)(d), the council or the affected school board or community college board of trustees may appeal to the State Board of Education if these agencies fail to reach agreement on any proposal. In the event of an appeal, the decision of the State Board constitutes final agency action.
In previous opinions CEO 77-7 and CEO 79-43, we have concluded that the fact that a decision of a body may be appealed to another body, which has the right to reverse or modify such a decision, does not indicate that the body's authority is merely advisory, as its decisions may be reversed or superseded only by positive action of another body. Therefore, given the independent role envisioned by the pertinent statutes for the regional coordinating councils, we conclude that they do not constitute "advisory bodies" for purposes of the financial disclosure law.
Accordingly, we find that as a member of a regional coordinating council for vocational education, adult general education, and community instructional services, you are a "local officer" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests on Commission on Ethics Form 1.