CEO 75-205 -- November 6, 1975
COUNTY STUDY COMMISSION
APPLICABILITY OF DISCLOSURE LAW TO MEMBERS
To: Ralph H. Haben, Jr., State Representative, 71st District, Palmetto
Prepared by: Bonnie Johnson
Reference is made to CEO 74-22. Members of public boards are subject to disclosure unless the board is solely advisory in nature. The Manatee County Study Commission is charged to study governmental structures within the county and to submit a plan to area legislators and local officials for the solution of problems discovered in the study. Although the commission is authorized to contract, hold hearings, and undertake investigations, it has no final authority to alter those aspects of local government which it studies. Under the present law, it is therefore deemed to be an advisory body, its members exempt from disclosure requirements. This opinion does not address the status of the commission in relation to the revised financial disclosure law which takes effect on January 1, 1976, however. A new definition of "advisory body" is contained in that law, and it therefore may be necessary to seek another opinion before the 1976 filing deadline.
Are members of the Manatee County Study Commission public officers within the meaning of that term as found in part III, Ch. 112, F. S. (1974 Supp.), and therefore subject to financial disclosure requirements?
Your question is answered in the negative.
The term "public officer" is defined to include:
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), F. S. (1974 Supp.).]
All commission members, therefore, are public officers unless the commission is advisory in nature. The Ethics Commission has determined in previous opinions that the advisory board exclusion applies only to those boards whose duties are solely advisory in nature. See CEO 74-22.
The Manatee County Study Commission was created by Ch. 75-434, Laws of Florida, to conduct a study of governmental structures within Manatee County and to submit a plan to area legislators and local officials for the solution of any problems revealed by the study. The commission is authorized to enter into contracts with persons or agencies for the furnishing of information which may be required, and may hold hearings, undertake investigations, and employ such technical, special, clerical, and legal assistance as may be needed to fulfill its purpose. Operational moneys are appropriated from the general funds of Manatee County and are expended at the direction of the study commission.
It appears that the Manatee County Study Commission serves in a solely advisory capacity, having no final authority to alter those aspects of local government which it studies. The commission's authority to expend funds and to hold hearings and conduct investigations is exercised solely in pursuit of its advisory function. It is therefore our opinion that the Manatee County Study Commission is an advisory body; its members therefore are exempt from current financial disclosure requirements.
We would like to point out that on January 1, 1976, the revised financial disclosure law will take effect. The new law requires, in part, that all "local officers" file statements of financial disclosure. The term "local officer" is defined to include:
Any appointed member of a board, commission, authority, community college district board of trustees, or council of any political subdivision of the state, excluding any member of an advisory body. A governmental body with land planning, zoning or natural resources responsibilities shall not be considered an advisory body. [Section 112.3145(1)(a)2., amended by Ch. 75-196, Laws of Florida.]
Further, s. 112.312(1), Ch. 75-196, defines "advisory body" as:
. . . any board, commission, committee, council, or authority, however selected, whose total budget, appropriations, or authorized expenditures constitute less than 1 percent of the budget of each agency it serves or $100,000, whichever is less, and whose powers, jurisdiction, and authority are solely advisory and do not include the final determination or adjudication of any personal or property rights, duties or obligations, other than those relating to its internal operations.
Whether the study commission members will be subject to the revised law will depend on whether they are "advisory" within the above definition. Should there be uncertainty in this matter, we will, upon request, issue an opinion based upon more detailed information relating to funding. The deadline for filing in 1976 is noon, July 15.