FORMER COUNTY COMMISSIONER LOBBYING COUNTY STAFF AND ATTENDING BOARD MEETINGSTo: Name withheld at person's request (Merritt Island)
A former county commissioner is prohibited for two years after he leaves office by Section 112.313(14), Florida Statutes, as amended by Chapter 2006-275, Laws of Florida, from representing a client for compensation before the county commission collegially or its individual members, as well as the commissioners' aides and the "immediate support staff" of the county manager identified in the opinion. Additionally, the term "representation" includes mere physical attendance at a county commission meeting or workshop, even if the former county commissioner does not directly address the commission.
Who is considered to be the "immediate support staff" of a County Commissioner for purposes of the post-officeholding restriction in Section 112.313(14), Florida Statutes?
Question 1 is answered as follows.
In your letter of inquiry, you explain that you will be leaving office as a Brevard County Commissioner in November 2006 and that you have questions about the application of Section 112.313(14), Florida Statutes, to you if you represent interests before County government after your term ends. During the 2006 legislative session, Section 112.313(14), Florida Statutes, was amended to provide as follows:
LOBBYING BY FORMER LOCAL OFFICERS; PROHIBITION.—A person who has been elected to any county, municipal, special district, or school district office may not personally represent another person or entity for compensation before the government body or agency of which the person was an officer for a period of 2 years after vacating that office. For purposes of this subsection: (a) The “government body or agency” of a member of a board of county commissioners consists of the commission, the chief administrative officer or employee of the county, and their immediate support staff. [e.s.] . . . . [Section 112.313(14), Florida Statutes, as amended by Chapter 2006-275, Laws of Florida.]
Prior to the amendment of Section 112.313(14), we opined in CEO 05-4 that the statute prohibited a former member of a county commission from representing clients for compensation before members of the county commission either sitting as a board or individually, or before aides to the commission members, but did not prohibit him from representing clients before the planning and zoning board, the board of adjustment, or the county planning, zoning and development division. However, with the amendment of the statute, the parameters were broadened to include "the chief administrative officer or employee of the county, and their immediate support staff."
In Brevard County, we are advised that each member of the County Commission generally has three staff persons who are known as administrative aides or assistants. In addition, you acknowledge that the "immediate support staff" for the County Manager, who is the County Commission's chief administrative employee, includes the Assistant County Manager for Development and Environmental Services, the Assistant County Manager for Community Services, the Assistant County Manager for Management Services, the Agenda Coordinator, the Legislative Delegation Coordinator, and three Administrative Assistants—one for the County Manager and two for the Assistant County Managers.
Accordingly, for two years after you leave office, you may not represent clients for compensation before the County Commission as a body or before Commissioners individually; nor may you represent clients before the County Commissioners' aides or any of the positions identified above as the "immediate support staff" of the County Manager.
May you attend County Commission meetings and workshops, even if you do not directly address the members?
Question 2 is answered in the negative.
In CEO 05-4, we construed the term "representation," which is defined in Section 112.312(22), Florida Statutes, to include actual physical attendance on behalf of a client at a meeting of the County Commission. This conclusion was based on our holding in CEO 92-3, Question 1, where we opined that a former legislator was prohibited by a similar restriction from even attending as an observer on behalf of a client, publicly noticed legislative committee meetings or sessions of a legislative house. Question 2 of CEO 92-3 concluded that even asking informational questions of staff in behalf of another for compensation was prohibited. Based upon this precedent, for two years after you leave office, your mere attendance at County Commission meetings or workshops on behalf of another for compensation is prohibited by Section 112.313(14), Florida Statutes.
Question 2 is answered accordingly.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on December 1, 2006 and RENDERED this 6th day of December, 2006.
Norman M. Ostrau, Chair