CEO 93-17 -- June 11, 1993
APPLICABILITY OF DISCLOSURE LAW TO
COUNTY HEARING EXAMINERS
To: Diana M. Parker, Lee County Hearing Examiner (Fort Myers)
County Hearing Examiners with the power to grant or deny land development permits are "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes. CEO's 88-6, 86-11, 81-56, 75-198, and 76-8 are referenced.
Are you, a County Hearing Examiner, a "local officer" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests annually?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
The financial disclosure law requires each "local officer" to file a statement of financial interests no later than July 1 of each year. Section 112.3145(2)(b), Florida Statutes (1991). The term "local officer" is defined to include
[a]ny person holding one or more of the following positions: ... chief county or municipal building inspector; ... county or municipal administrator, with power to grant or deny a land development permit ... . [Section 112.3145(1)(a)3, Florida Statutes (1991).]
Through your letter of inquiry and in subsequent information provided to our staff, we are advised that in 1988 the Lee County Commission established the position of Hearing Examiner for Lee County to replace the Board of Zoning Adjustment and Appeal. In 1990, you advise, the duties of the Code Enforcement Board were transferred to the Hearing Examiner's Office. You further relate that a County Hearing Examiner sits as an administrative law judge and hears both land use and zoning matters, as well as code enforcement cases. Final decisions are rendered in variances, special exceptions, special permits, administrative appeals, and code enforcement cases. Recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners are made in rezonings, developments of county impact, and developments of regional impact. You question whether County Hearing Examiners must file a statement of financial interests (CE Form 1) annually.
Resolution of this issue turns on whether a County Hearing Examiner has the "power to grant or deny a land development permit." In CEO 88-6, we determined that a county building code compliance director responsible for issuing, denying, or revoking permits under the county building code did fall under this category of local officer. Our opinion in CEO 86-11, Question 2, advised a permit supervisor in a county building department that he was a county administrator and, based upon our rationale in CEO 75-198 and CEO 76-8, he appeared to have the power to grant or deny a land development permit. His supervisor, the building official who provided further administrative review of his decisions, alsowas considered a "local officer" for purposes of financial disclosure.
Clearly, these cited opinions dealt with administrators in technical fields, and County Hearing Examiners are highly qualified attorneys with special expertise in the areas of land use law, zoning, and comprehensive planning. However, because it does appear that County Hearing Examiners render final action on certain types of land development permits, it is our view that County Hearing Examiners possessing this kind of authority should file financial disclosure.
We note also that hearing officers at the State level are considered to be "specified State employees" subject to filing financial disclosure pursuant to Section 112.3145(1)(b)1, Florida Statutes. See CEO 81-56. While there is no comparable classification under the definition of "local officer," the fact that State hearing officers are required to file financial disclosure further underscores our belief that County Hearing Examiners having authority to grant or deny land development permits also should be required to file because of the significant authority they exercise.