CEO 75-204 -- November 6, 1975
WATER CONTROL DISTRICT BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
APPLICABILITY OF CODE OF ETHICS
To: Robert E. Ferris, Attorney for Old Plantation Water Control District, Ft. Lauderdale
The standards of conduct provisions of the Code of Ethics are applicable to "any person elected or appointed to hold office in any agency including any person serving on an advisory body." Members of the board of supervisors of a water control district therefore are subject to these provisions. Board members are also subject to disclosure under the revised financial disclosure law, as contained in Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida, which specifies that "local officers" are subject to disclosure, including within the definition of that term "every person who is elected to office in any political subdivision of the state." Inasmuch as the subject members of the board of supervisors are elected to office by district landowners, they are local officers subject to disclosure.
Where there is a contradiction between a county ordinance and a state law, the state law is superior. See CEO 75-20. So long as no contradiction is created, however, a local ordinance may be more stringent than its state counterpart.
1. Are members of the Board of Supervisors of the Old Plantation Water Control District subject to the revised Standards of Conduct Law (Ch. 75-208, Laws of Florida) and the revised Financial Disclosure Law (Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida)?
2. Where there is a contradiction between a Broward County Ordinance and the state standards of conduct provision as to conflicts of interest in voting situations, does the state law supersede the local ordinance?
Question 1 is answered in the affirmative in both instances.
The standards of conduct provisions of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees were substantially amended by the 1975 Legislature. The revised law, contained in Ch. 75-208, Laws of Florida, and taking effect on October 1, 1975, applies to all public officers and employees of agencies. Section 112.313(1) further provides that:
[a]s used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, the term "public officer" shall include any person elected or appointed to hold office in any agency including any person serving on an advisory body.
It is therefore our opinion that the standards of conduct provisions are applicable to each and every public officer and employee within the state.
The Financial Disclosure Law, on the other hand, is somewhat limited in applicability. The revised statutes, contained in Ch. 75- 196, Laws of Florida, and becoming effective on January 1, 1976, provide that state officers, local officers, and specified employees are required to file a statement of financial interests annually. The term "local officer" is defined to include "every person who is elected to office in any political subdivision of the state . . . ." Section 112.3145, amended by Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida.
In your letter dated July 17, 1975, to Attorney General Shevin, which subsequently was forwarded to this office for response, you state that the Old Plantation Water Control District, established pursuant to Ch. 298, F. S., and a decree of the Broward County Circuit Court, is governed by a Board of Supervisors, the three members of which are elected by landowners in the district. Clearly, the OPWCD is a political subdivision, and its elected supervisors therefore are deemed to be "local officers" pursuant to s. 112.3145(1), F. S. As local officers, the supervisors will, on January 1, 1976, be subject to the revised financial disclosure provisions contained in Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida.
Question 2 is answered in the affirmative.
Enclosed please find a copy of a previous opinion of this commission, CEO 75-20, in which we determined that, in cases of contradiction between state and local laws, the state law is superior. Your question is answered accordingly.
We would like to call your attention to question 2 of the above- referenced CEO 75-20, however. Although a local code of ethics may not contradict a state statute, political subdivisions nevertheless are free to adopt more stringent regulations in this area so long as the state law is not contravened. Section 112.326, F. S. 1975.
As you have been advised by telephone, we do not have authority to determine whether the board of supervisors is subject to Broward County Ordinance 75-6. We join with the Attorney General's office in advising that jurisdictional disputes between units of local government are more appropriately resolved by judicial proceedings.