CEO 79-9 -- February 22, 1979
DEPUTY SHERIFFS AUTHORIZED TO MAKE PURCHASES EXCEEDING $100
APPLICABILITY OF FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE LAW
To: Sgt. Lawrence A. Meggs, Planning and Research Division, Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Key West
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
For purposes of the annual filing of financial disclosure, the term "local officer" is defined in s. 112.3145(1)(a)3., F. S. 1977 to include "a purchasing agent having the authority to make any purchase exceeding $100 for any political subdivision of the state or any entity thereof." The Commission on Ethics previously has advised that this provision includes any local public officer or employee, regardless of his title, who has the authority to authorize the expenditure of over $100 of local government funds. See, for example, CEO's 77-89 and 78-36. Accordingly, a deputy sheriff who has the authority to make purchases or authorize expenditures exceeding $100 constitutes a "local officer" required to file financial disclosure annually.
Is a deputy sheriff who is authorized to make purchases or authorize expenditures exceeding $100 a "local officer" subject to the requirement of filing financial disclosure annually?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides that each "local officer" shall file financial disclosure annually. Section 112.3145(2)(b), F. S. 1977. The term "local officer" is defined to include
. . . any person holding one or more of the following positions, by whatever title, including persons appointed to act directly in such capacity, but excluding assistants and deputies unless specifically named herein . . . a purchasing agent having the authority to make any purchase exceeding $100 for any political subdivision of the state or any entity thereof. [Section 112.3145(1)(a)3., F. S. 1977.]
We previously have advised that this provision includes any local public officer or employee, regardless of his title, who has the authority to authorize the expenditure of over $100 of local government funds, as opposed merely to having the authority to request a purchase or to requisition items. See, for example, CEO 78-36, regarding deputy chiefs of police, and CEO 77-89, regarding officers of the Florida Highway Patrol. Therefore, any deputy sheriff who has the authority to make purchases or authorize expenditures exceeding $100 falls within the definition of a "local officer."
In our view, the language in s. 112.3145(1)(a)3., "excluding assistants and deputies unless specifically named herein," does not exempt a deputy sheriff who is authorized to make expenditures of over $100 as the language relating to purchasing agents constitutes a specific enumeration. We believe that the language regarding deputies was intended to clarify the phrase "including persons appointed to act directly in such capacity." This phrase could be interpreted to have the effect of including a deputy clerk of the court, for example, since clerks of the circuit and county courts are included in s. 112.3145(1)(a)3., and since a "deputy" has been defined as "[a] substitute; a person duly authorized by an officer to exercise some or all of the functions pertaining to the office, in the place and stead of the latter." [Black's Law Dictionary, p. 529 (4th Rev. Ed. 1968).]
Therefore, the language regarding deputies makes it clear that, for example, a deputy clerk of the court or deputy chief of police is not required to file financial disclosure merely because he is authorized to act in the capacity of clerk of the court or chief of police under certain circumstances. However, should the position of deputy carry as part of its continuing responsibilities the authority to make purchases of over $100, then that position falls within the definition of a "local officer" as a purchasing agent independently of the fact that it may be exempted as being merely a deputy to a higher position that also is enumerated as a "local officer." The Legislature has required those persons in sensitive, responsible positions, including persons who are authorized to spend public money, to file financial disclosure. This intent would not be fulfilled were a public officer or employee with purchasing authority to be exempted from making disclosure.
Accordingly, we find that a deputy sheriff who is authorized to make purchases or authorize expenditures exceeding $100 is a "local officer" subject to the requirement of filing financial disclosure annually.
You have referenced s. 30.53, F. S., which provides: "The independence of the sheriff shall be preserved concerning the purchase of supplies and equipment, selection of personnel . . . ."
The legislative requirement of financial disclosure for those deputy sheriffs who are authorized to make purchases in excess of $100 does not interfere with the sheriff's independence in the purchase of supplies and equipment or selection of personnel. Section 112.3145, F. S., in no way dictates what personnel may be selected, what supplies and equipment may be purchased, or how these selections and purchases may be made by a sheriff. Even if s. 112.3145 constitutes some interference with the statutory and constitutional independence of a sheriff, however minimal, it appears to be within the authority of the Legislature to require those deputies with purchasing authority to file financial disclosure. See s. 943.12, F. S., (authorizing the Police Standards and Training Commission to establish uniform minimum standards for the employment and training of police officers) and s. 943.22, F. S., (establishing a salary incentive program for local law enforcement officers) for examples of legislative enactments which impose a more direct interference with a sheriff's authority to set the terms and conditions of employment and appointment of his deputies.