CEO 14-29—December 17, 2014
ETHICS TRAINING REQUIREMENTS FOR MUNICIPAL OFFICERS
To: Name withheld at person’s request (Palm Coast)
Elected members of the governing board of a special district are not “elected municipal officers” subject to the annual ethics training requirement of Section 112.3142, Florida Statutes, as amended by Chapter 2014-183, Laws of Florida.
Are the members of the board of supervisors of a special district “elected municipal officers” subject to the annual ethics training requirement of Section 112.3142, Florida Statutes?
Your question is answered in the negative.
You write that the Dunes Community Development District, of which you are District Manager, is a local unit of special-purpose government established in 1985 under Chapter 190, Florida Statutes, that its Board of Supervisors has five members who are elected to office, and that you seek guidance as to whether they are “elected municipal officers” within the meaning of Section 112.3142, Florida Statutes, which was amended in 2014 to require, beginning in 2015, four hours of ethics training annually for such officers.
Section 112.3142, amended in 2014 via Chapter 2014-183, Laws of Florida,1 provides in relevant part, with emphasis supplied:
(b) Beginning January 1, 2015, all elected municipal officers must complete 4 hours of ethics training each calendar year which addresses, at a minimum, s. 8, Art. II of the State Constitution, the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, and the public records and public meetings laws of this state.
When first enacted in 2013, Section 112.3142 applied the training requirement only to “constitutional officers,” defining the term to include the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, Commissioner of Agriculture, state attorneys, public defenders, sheriffs, tax collectors, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, clerks of the circuit court, county commissioners, district school board members, and superintendents of schools. In contrast, the 2014 amendment of the statute did not define “elected municipal officers.” For the reasons set forth below, we find that an elected community development district officer, or other elected special district officer, is not an “elected municipal officer” under the statute, and thus is not subject to its required annual training.
Initially, we note that municipalities commonly are viewed as being synonymous with units of general-purpose government (cities, towns, villages), not with units of special-purpose government such as community development districts or other special districts. Further, we see that the State Constitution recognizes special districts as differing from municipalities; see, for example, Article VIII (Local Government), Section 4, Florida Constitution: “By law or by resolution of the governing bodies of each of the governments affected, any function of a county, municipality or special district may be transferred to or contracted to be performed by another county, municipality, or special district . . . .” Also, various Florida Statutes recognize the differences between types of local governments; see, for example, Chapter 166, Florida Statutes (Municipalities), Chapter 125, Florida Statutes (County Government), Chapter 189, Florida Statutes (Uniform Special District Accountability Act), and Chapter 190, Florida Statutes (Community Development Districts). And, more particularly, Chapter 165, Florida Statutes, which addresses formation of municipalities, defines “municipality” and “special district” differently; see Sections 165.031(3) and (7), Florida Statutes, which provide, respectively:
“Municipality” means a municipality created pursuant to general or special law authorized or recognized pursuant to s. 2 or s. 6, Art. VIII of the State Constitution.
“Special district” means a local unit of special government, as defined in s. 189.012 . . . .
In view of these and other distinctions between municipalities and special districts found throughout the law, and in view of Section 112.3142 not defining “elected municipal officer” to include an elected special district officer,2 it is our view that the new training requirement, while certainly laudable, does not apply to your Community Development District Board or to other elected special district officers. It is, of course, within the power of the Legislature to further amend the law to include special district officers within the training requirement.3
Your question is answered accordingly.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on December 12, 2014, and RENDERED this 17th day of December, 2014.
Linda McKee Robison, Chair
Section 112.313(14), Florida Statutes, a two-year, revolving-door, post-officeholding restriction applicable to former elected public officers, distinguishes between an “elected municipal officer” and an “elected special district officer.”
Extrinsic evidence of Legislative intent (i.e., Legislative staff analyses) as to SB 846 contains no statement as to whether the new training requirement was meant to apply to elected special district officers.