CEO 84-57 -- June 27, 1984
APPLICABILITY OF DISCLOSURE LAW TO MEMBERS OF CITY BOARD OF ETHICS
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
The members of the Tampa Board of Ethics are "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing statements of financial interests under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes. The authority of the Board as provided in the City Code is not solely advisory.
Are you, a member of the Tampa Board of Ethics, a "local officer" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests annually?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides that each "local officer" shall file a statement of financial interests annually. Section 112.3145(2)(b), Florida Statutes. 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).]
In turn, "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).]
The Board of Ethics for the City of Tampa in essence performs the same function at the City level which we perform for the State, following many of the procedures which we follow. Section 2-204 of the City Code creates a Board of Ethics composed of seven members to administer the code of ethics for city officials and employees. Section 2-205 authorizes the Board to conduct investigations, to swear witnesses, and to adopt rules and regulations to govern its proceedings and hearings. Under Section 2-207 the Board is to render written advisory opinions on the request of the officer or employee involved.
Under Section 2-208, the Board is authorized to undertake the confidential preliminary investigation of sworn complaints of improper conduct under the ethical provisions of the Code. If the Board finds no probable cause, the Board is to dismiss the complaint, which then becomes public. If the Board finds probable cause, it may hold a public hearing. After the hearing, the Board is to make written findings of facts and conclusions, including a determination of the propriety of the conduct at issue. If a violation is found to have occurred, the Board's findings are transmitted to the Mayor, City Council, or other appropriate body for appropriate action.
Under Section 2-209, the Mayor, City Council and other appropriate body then are authorized to begin disciplinary actions to take steps to correct or rectify the conduct, and to institute appropriate action to avoid any transaction with a public body or any determination made by a public body. The Mayor, City Council, or other public body taking such action is to base any action on the written findings of fact, conclusions and determinations of the Board, and is to institute any such action within sixty days of the Board's action.
In our view, the Board of Ethics is not an "advisory body," as its authority is not solely advisory. First, the Board may dismiss a complaint without any apparent review. This indicates that the Board's dismissal is not merely a recommendation to a higher officer or body to dismiss the complaint. Secondly, if the Board finds a violation, its findings are the basis of any future action which might be taken. Again, the Board's findings and conclusions are not merely a recommendation that a higher officer or body find a violation, but more are in the nature of binding adjudication.
Accordingly, we find that as a member of the Board of Ethics, you are a "local officer" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests annually.