CEO 75-183 -- September 25, 1975
ATTORNEYS FOR STATE AGENCIES
APPLICABILITY OF CODE OF ETHICS
To: Geoffrey B. Dobson, General Counsel, Florida Department of Transportation, Tallahassee
Prepared by: Gene Rhodes
The revised financial disclosure law, which will take effect on January 1, 1976, requires that certain "specified employees" file statements of financial disclosure. This term is defined to include any "full- time employee who serves as counsel or assistant counsel to any state agency." Section 112.3145(1)(b)1., F. S., amended by Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida. Inasmuch as all twenty-nine attorneys employed by the Department of Transportation are in job classifications described as exercising duties which amount to the practice of law, such employees are deemed to function either as counsel or assistant counsel to the department, a state agency. Accordingly, they are "specified employees" subject to financial disclosure.
Are the attorneys who are employed by the state of Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) "specified employees" within the meaning of that term as it is used in the revised Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees and therefore required to file a statement of financial disclosure?
Your question in answered in the affirmative.
Your letter of inquiry advises us that DOT employs 29 attorneys. Some of them are assigned administrative responsibilities, but most perform solely as attorneys. Further, we understand that each of the DOT attorneys is employed under one of the four attorney classifications established by the Division of Personnel and Retirement of the State of Florida Department of Administration.
A recent revision of the financial disclosure law, which will take effect on January 1, 1976, will require that "specified employees" file annually a statement of financial interests. Section 112.3145(2), F. S., as amended by Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida. The revised code defines "specified employee" to include, among others:
Public counsel created by chapter 350, an assistant public defender, a full-time state employee who serves as counsel or assistant counsel to any state agency, a judge of industrial claims, and a hearing examiner. [Section 112.3145(1)(b)1., supra; emphasis supplied.]
It is clear from the context in which the term "counsel" is used in the cited statutory definition that legal counsel and assistant legal counsel, as opposed to consultants in some other field, were intended to be within the meaning of the term "specified employee."
In order to determine which full-time employees constitute legal counsel in the executive branch of state government, we must be guided by the distinguishing characteristics of work performed by such employees. These characteristics are set forth in the uniform job classification plan promulgated by rules of the Division of Personnel of the Department of Administration. Examining these rules, we find that the classifications Attorney I, II, III, and IV require as part of their job description the giving of legal advice or performance of other duties which amount to the practice of law. Number II Division of Personnel of the State of Florida Department of Administration, Class Specification Manual 802-805 (rev. ed. 1973). We also note that these attorney classifications range from pay grade 27 to pay grade 35, the top 25 percent of all pay grades in the executive branch -- a fact which seems to reflect the relatively high value of their services.
With the foregoing considerations in mind, it is our opinion that each of the 29 attorneys employed by DOT function either as counsel or assistant counsel to that agency. Accordingly, we find them to be "specified employees" subject to the disclosure requirements of s. 112.3145, supra.