CEO 95-10 -- June 1, 1995
APPLICABILITY OF FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE LAW
TO CITY VEGETATION COMMITTEE
To: Robert D. Pritt, City Attorney, City of Sanibel
The members of the Sanibel Vegetation Committee are not "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing financial disclosure annually under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes. The Committee is solely advisory and does not have "natural resources responsibilities," as its recommendations are not part of a permitting or planning process and are not a condition precedent to final governmental action; rather, the Committee only reviews generally on natural resources matters and presents its advice. CEO 77-54 is revoked.
Are the members of the City of Sanibel Vegetation Committee "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing statements of financial interests annually under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes?
Your question is answered in the negative.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides that each "local officer" is required to make annual financial disclosure. Section 112.3145(2)(b), Florida Statutes. The term "local officer" is defined to include:
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. Any 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.]
In turn, an "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.]
In CEO 77-54, we reviewed the duties of the Vegetation Committee and concluded that, although the Committee "clearly performs only advisory functions, its responsibilities lie in the area of natural resources and therefore it may not be deemed to be an 'advisory body.'" However, after a number of opinions in which we concluded that other bodies whose advisory duties lay in the area of natural resources also were subject to the financial disclosure law, we modified our interpretation. In CEO 81-16, we stated:
However, upon further reflection on the Legislature's use of the term 'responsibilities,' we are persuaded that the Legislature did not intend quite so broad an application of the financial disclosure law. In CEO 76-78, we read the term 'responsibilities' as meaning 'duties.' We remain persuaded of that view. If a board has a duty to act, or is obligated to take some action, the board has 'responsibilities,' even though its action may consist merely of providing an advisory recommendation. Thus, for example, if a board has been delegated the responsibility (duty) of playing a role in a permitting, planning, or other type of process relating to natural resources, then that board would have 'natural resources responsibilities.' There, the board's recommendation would be a condition precedent to final governmental action.
On the other hand, if a board has been given the authority only to review generally some natural resource matter, to formulate policy recommendations, and to present its advice to a superior board or officer, the board would not have 'natural resources responsibilities.' That board would have no duty to take action in any particular matter.
The duties of the Committee, listed in CEO 77-54, have not changed. It is responsible for advising the Planning Commission, the City Council, and the City Manager about "sound ecological management of vegetative resources" in the City; may review and comment about proposed development; and provides technical assistance by identifying specimens of vegetation, advising on transplanting specimens to other areas of the island, and advising on appropriately locating native species for landscaping. Although these duties do lie in the area of "natural resources," it is clear that the Committee's recommendation is not part of a permitting or planning process and is not a condition precedent to final governmental action. The Committee has no duty to take action in any particular matter. Rather, the Committee has been given the authority only to review generally natural resource matters, to formulate policy recommendations, and to present its advice to a superior board or officer or to other members of the community.
Accordingly, we find that the members of the Sanibel Vegetation Committee are not "local officers" subject to the requirement of filing financial disclosure statements annually. CEO 77-54 is hereby revoked.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on June 1, 1995, and RENDERED this _____ day of June, 1995.
R. Terry Rigsby