CEO 14-09 - April 30, 2014



To:        Mr. William H. Andrews, Attorney for Pasco County Property Appraiser


A public official's former spouse's daughter is not the public official's "stepdaughter" subject to prohibitions of the anti-nepotism law. CEO 99-5 and CEO 96-6 are referenced.


Is a property appraiser's former wife's daughter his "stepdaughter" under Section 112.3135, Florida Statutes (anti-nepotism law), thereby prohibiting her employment in the property appraiser's office?

Your question is answered in the negative.

In your letter of inquiry, you relate that this opinion is sought on behalf of a county Property Appraiser ("Appraiser"). You relate that the Appraiser is considering employing his former wife's daughter in his office. You ask whether employing his former wife's daughter would violate the anti-nepotism law within the Code of Ethics, which provides in relevant part, with emphasis supplied:

RESTRICTION ON EMPLOYMENT OF RELATIVES.-A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, or advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a position in the agency in which the official is serving or over which the official exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official. An individual may not be appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced in or to a position in an agency if such appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement has been advocated by a public official, serving in or exercising jurisdiction or control over the agency, who is a relative of the individual or if such appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement is made by a collegial body of which a relative of the individual is a member. . . . [Section 112.3135(2)(a), Florida Statutes.]

"Relative" is defined, for purposes of the anti-nepotism law, as follows, with emphasis supplied:

. . . an individual who is related to the public official as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, or half sister. [Section 112.3135(1)(d), Florida Statutes.]

The law prohibits a "public official" (e.g., a county property appraiser) from appointing his "relative" to a position in his public agency. Thus, the law would prohibit the placement of the Appraiser's stepdaughter in a position in the Appraiser's office. Here, since "stepdaughter," but not "former stepdaughter," is included in the definition of "relative" in Section 112.3135(1)(d), the question to be determined is whether the daughter of the Appraiser's former wife is still his stepdaughter for purposes of the application of Section 112.3135(2)(a).

In AGO 85-35, the Attorney General, noting the penal nature and judicial strict construction of the anti-nepotism law, applied the rule of statutory construction expressio unius est exclusio alterius (the express mention of one thing in a statute implies the exclusion of other things not mentioned) to the definition of "relative" in the anti-nepotism law and concluded that the relationship created by marriage to a brother-in-law would not be within the classes of relationship that would "activate" the anti-nepotism prohibition.1 See CEO 99-5 and CEO 96-6. We note that the term "step" is defined in Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, as a "prefix in conjunction with a degree of kinship" that is "repugnant to blood relationship, and is indicative of a relationship by affinity." [Emphasis added.] In turn, Black's Law Dictionary defines "affinity," in relevant part, as "[t]he connection existing in consequence of marriage, between each of the married persons and the kindred of the other." [Emphasis added.]

Because there is not currently a marriage existing between the Appraiser and his former wife, the connection between the Appraiser and his former wife's daughter no longer exists "in consequence of marriage." We interpret Section 112.3135 to mean that a "step" relationship ends with the dissolution of a marriage and, thus, a public official's former spouse's offspring is not the public official's stepson or stepdaughter.

In sum, we find that the Appraiser's former wife's daughter is not his "stepdaughter" for purposes of the application of Section 112.3135(2)(a) to her employment with the Property Appraiser's Office.

The question is answered accordingly.

ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on April 25, 2014, and RENDERED this 30th day of April, 2014.


Morgan R. Bentley, Chairman

[1] Prior to its inclusion within the Code of Ethics (see Chapter 89-67, Laws of Florida), the anti-nepotism law was interpreted by the Attorney General.