CEO 87-89 -- December 10, 1987
APPLICABILITY OF DISCLOSURE LAW TO MEMBERS OF COUNTY
CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
To: Ms. Karla A. Stetter, Assistant County Attorney, Pasco County (New Port Richey)
The members of a county citizens advisory committee created to review the various elements of the county's comprehensive plan and to advise county staff regarding the development of the plan are "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing statements of financial interests annually under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes. Although the committee performs a solely advisory function, the committee has land-planning responsibilities.
Are the members of the Pasco County Citizens Advisory Committee to the Comprehensive Plan "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing statements 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 (1985). The term "local officer" is defined to mean:
Any appointed member of a board, commission, authority, including any expressway authority or transportation authority established by general law; 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 (1985).]
In turn, "advisory body" is defined 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. [Section 112.312(1), Florida Statutes (1985).]
In applying these statutes, it is clear that members of boards which meet the definition of "advisory body" are exempted from the requirement of filing statements of financial interests. Secondly, it is clear that, even though a particular Board performs a solely advisory function and otherwise fulfills the tests of an "advisory body," that board is not to be considered an "advisory body" if it has "land-planning, zoning, or natural resources responsibilities." Otherwise, the statutory language about "responsibilities" would be redundant. Bodies with those responsibilities specifically are exempted from being "advisory bodies," and their members are not exempted from filing statements of financial interests.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Section 163.3181, Florida Statutes, mandates public participation and involvement in the comprehensive planning process to the fullest extent possible. To that end, the Board of County Commissioners of Pasco County has appointed a Citizens Advisory Committee charged with examining and reviewing the various elements of the County comprehensive plan and background data element. Members of the Committee are chosen to provide a broad cross section of citizens who have an interest in the development of a cogent and workable long-range comprehensive land use plan for the County. The Committee is to advise County staff with regard to the development of the comprehensive plan. Committee members have no power or authority to commit the County to any policies, to incur any financial obligation, or to create any liability on the part of the County. No actions or recommendations of the Committee are binding on the County until approved or adopted by the Board of County Commissioners.
Although the Committee performs a solely advisory function, we find that the Committee has "land-planning responsibilities" as it plays a role in the land-planning process and as its recommendations are a part of the mandated public participation in the comprehensive planning process. In previous opinions we have found that committees with similar functions are subject to the financial disclosure law. See CEO 76-61 (Citizens Advisory Committee to Regional Planning Council), CEO 76-120 (Citizens Advisory Committee to City Planning Commission), CEO 77-29 (Advisory Committees to County Area Planning Board), CEO 77-47 (Technical Advisory Committee to local planning agency), and CEO 78-80 (Citizens Advisory Committee to County Planning Council).
Accordingly, we find that the members of the Pasco County Citizens Advisory Committee to the Comprehensive Plan are "local officers" and therefore are subject to the requirement of filing statements of financial interests annually under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes.