CEO 75-35 -- February 21, 1975
REQUIREMENTS FOR BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF THE OLD PLANTATION WATER CONTROL DISTRICT
To: Robert E. Ferris, Fort Lauderdale
Prepared by: Patricia Butler
Members of the Board of Supervisors of the Old Plantation Water Control District are elected by landowners during the course of each annual meeting. Candidates for the supervisor's post are not required to follow official procedures of qualification. Although the supervisors are candidates within the legal definition in s. 112.312(3), F. S., as amended by Ch. 74-177, Laws of Florida, they do not meet the definitive description of s. 112.3145(1), supra, in which the Legislature required financial disclosure of candidates completing formal qualification procedures. Thus, candidates for the board are not required to file CE Form 1. However, elected members of the board have powers to levy taxes, issue bonds, and effect reclamation of land. By virtue of these regulatory powers, the board members are within the definition of "public officer" as set forth in s. 112.312(7)(b), supra, and must file CE Form 1 by noon, May 15, 1975. Section 112.3145(1), supra.
1. Must candidates for a position on the Board of Supervisors of the Old Plantation Water Control District file a financial disclosure statement in accordance with part III, Ch. 112, F. S., as amended by Ch. 74-177, Laws of Florida?
2. Are members of the Board of Supervisors of the Old Plantation Water Control District public officers within the definition of part III, Ch. 112, supra, and thus subject to the disclosure requirements as applied to public officers?
3. When must the members of the Board of Supervisors of the Old Plantation Water Control District file CE Form 1, the Financial Disclosure Statement?
Question 1 is answered in the negative.
The Old Plantation Water Control District, a governmental body organized under Ch. 298, F. S., is directed by a Board of Supervisors consisting of three members. One supervisor is elected by the landowners of the district at each annual meeting. During the course of the annual meeting, candidates are nominated, the election is held, and the supervisor is thereby chosen. Such candidates are not required to follow any official procedures, such as filing qualification papers or taking an oath, in running for this position. The persons in competition for this office do not engage in any campaigning prior to the election. In fact, until the actual meeting and nominating process, it is not known who the candidates will be.
The definition of "candidate," for purposes of this law, is:
. . . any person who has filed his qualification papers and subscribed to the candidate oath as required by Section 99.021, or seeks by election to become a public officer excluding committeemen regulated by Chapter 103, Florida Statutes. [Section 112.312(3), supra.]
Under the strictest statutory interpretation of this law, the persons nominated for the position as board member are "candidates." However, there is other statutory evidence which leads us to believe that the Legislature did not intend to require these specific candidates to file CE Form 1, the Financial Disclosure Statement. The provision specifying the filing deadline for candidates states in part:
A candidate for nomination or election shall file a statement of disclosure no later than twelve o'clock noon on the tenth day after the last day to qualify as a candidate. [Section 112.3145(1), supra; emphasis supplied.]
This provision manifestly assumes that candidates must "qualify" in order to seek office. Since a formal qualification is not required in this instance, we think it reasonable to assume that the Legislature did not intend for persons to file a disclosure statement prior to such an election. However, any person who is elected to the board is required to file CE Form 1. This point leads directly into your next question.
Question 2 is answered in the affirmative.
The definition of "public officer" includes:
Members of boards, commissions, authorities, special taxing districts, and the head of each state agency, however selected but excluding advisory board members. [Section 112.312(7)(b), supra; emphasis supplied.]
The broad language of this definition indicates that all board members are within the definition of the term "public officer" unless the board is advisory in nature. An advisory board has been determined by the Ethics Commission to mean a board whose powers are solely advisory. See CEO 74-22.
As set forth under Ch. 298, F. S., the authority of the Board of Supervisors includes the power to effect reclamation of land in the district (s. 298.22, F. S.), the power to levy taxes (s. 298.29, F. S.), and the power to issue bonds (s. 298.47, F. S.). Such powers are more than advisory in nature; they are regulatory and policymaking functions. Accordingly, it is our opinion that the members of this board do not fall within the advisory exclusion; rather, they are public officers for purposes of this law and therefore are subject to the disclosure provisions required of public officers.
As to question 3, the section dealing with disclosure periods states:
A public officer . . . shall file a statement of disclosure no later than twelve o'clock noon of May 15th of each year, including the May 15th following the last year a public officer is in office. [Section 112.3145(1), supra.]
Under this section, a public officer may file his statement of financial disclosure at any time between January 1 and the May 15th deadline.