sunEthics 

Covering legal ethics, judicial ethics, bar admissions in Florida, Tennessee, and nationally.  See our Subject Index to past postings.

Florida Public Official Ethics - PUBLIC OFFICIALS and LAWYERS


Knowingly false allegations in a complaint to the Commission on Ethics do not support a fee award for the prevailing public official unless they were “material” to a purported ethics violation. [Added 1/5/17]
A county attorney and a county commissioner were to targets of complaints filed with the Commission on Ethics.  The Commission concluded that neither complaint established grounds for an ethics violation and dismissed them.  The 2 public officials of the complaints sought awards of attorney’s fees against the complainant under F.S. 112.317(7).  The Commission denied the fee requests on the basis that the allegedly false allegations in the complaint were not “material” to an ethics violation as required by the statute.  “Stated differently, even if knowingly false allegations were maliciously made to injure Hadeed and McLaughlin, they were not ‘material’ to any purported ethics violation.”  Only 3 of the allegations in the hundreds of pages of the complaints were material to possible ethics violations, and all 3 of them were not false.  The 2 officials appealed.
The First DCA affirmed, pointing out that “there are no false allegations of fact in the complaints that are material to a violation of the Code to support a request for costs and fees” (emphasis in original).  Noting that this result may “seem odd,” the court explained:  “Hundreds of pages of inflammatory language in ethics complaints are directed at public officials, who prevail on the merits, but they can’t recover costs or fees against their tormentors?  The answer is that the statute is narrowly-drawn and allows recovery only in very limited situations; it doesn’t permit recovery where knowingly false allegations are maliciously made to injure a public official’s reputation on matters immaterial to an ethics violation, at least in this context” (emphasis in original). Hadeed v. Florida Comm’n on Ethics, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 1st DCA, Nos. 1D16-724, 1D16-725, 12/12/2016), 2016 WL 7190613


First DCA rules that mandamus lies to compel Florida Ethics Commission to process complaint against a state attorney’s office.  [Added 7/12/13]  --  Young v. Lamar, 115 So.3d 1132 (Fla. 1st DCA 7/9/2013). 

Mayoral candidate who holds county commission seat is considered “public servant” for purposes applying official misconduct statute to mayor’s race.  [Added 5/6/13]  --  Gonot v. State, 112 So.3d 679 (Fla. 4th DCA 5/1/2013). 

Law firm in which county commission candidate is a partner may continue as special counsel of city within county if candidate is elected, per Florida Commission on Ethics.  [Added 11/5/12]  --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion CEO 12-21. 

Former public employee’s “no contest” plea is “conviction” for purposes of forfeiture of state retirement benefits.  [Added 10/23/12]  -- Brock v. Fla. Dept. of Management Services, 98 So.3d 771 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012). 

Law requiring counties to pay overhead costs for Offices of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel declared unconstitutional.  [Added 9/26/11]  -- Lewis v. Leon County, 73 So.3d 151 (Fla. 2011).

Under Florida ethics laws no conflict exists when law firm in which county commissioner's son-in-law is non-equity shareholder represents clients before commission.  [Added 6/211]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion CEO 11-04. 

Lawyer who is state representative may continue as expert witness for law firm representing Department of Financial Services.  [Added 4/13/11]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion CEO 11-03. 

Public officials do not become fact witnesses subject to deposition as a result of investigating a matter before them.  [Added 3/23/11]  --  City of Key West v. Havlicek, 57 So.3d 900 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011). 

Administrative order ruling that state senator violated ethics laws reversed by Fifth DCA.  [Added 3/2/11]  -- Siplin v. Commission on Ethics, 59 So.3d 150 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011). 

Florida Commission on Ethics opines on lawyer's service on city economic development commission and his firm's representation of clients who deal with commission.  [Added 1/3/11]  --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion CEO 10-24. 

Confidentiality requirements in Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights apply whenever officer faces adverse job action.  [Added 11/27/10]  --  Fraternal Order of Police v. Rutherford, 51 So.3d 485 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010). 

Retired public employee's benefits may be forfeited for crimes occurring while employed, even though not convicted until after retirement.  [Added 11/21/10]  -- Garay v. Dept. of Management Services, 46 So.3d 1227 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010). 

Florida Commission on Ethics publishes opinion addressing ethics law restrictions on Attorney General who leaves office.  [Added 11/16/10]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion CEO 10-22. 

Passenger Rail Commission member who is in law firm has no conflict of interest if law firm represents clients seeking to do business with FDOT.  [Added 9/30/10]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion CEO 10-20. 

Under state ethics laws, former assistant state attorney may represent clients against state attorney's office.  [Added 6/8/10]  --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion CEO 10-14. 

Commission on Ethics discusses how 2 year post-public-employment representation restriction applies to former SES senior attorney of Agency for Workforce Innovation.  [Added 6/8/10]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics CEO 10-13. 

Former government official's conviction of conspiracy to commit mail fraud supports forfeiture of retirement benefits under public ethics laws.  [Added 4/20/10]  --  Jenne v. Fla. Dept. of Management Services, 36 So.3d 738 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010). 

Lawyer who formerly was appointed county commissioner is not subject to 2-year post-officeholding representation restriction of F.S. 112.313(14).  [Added 9/30/09]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 2009-16. 

Lawyer who is school board member would not have conflict prohibiting him from voting to select lawyer in member's former law firm as school board attorney.  [Added 8/7/09]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 09-12. 


Prohibited conflict exists if other lawyers in county commissioner's law firm represent clients before the commission.  [Added 8/7/09]  --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 09-10. 

Public official who defended ethics complaint may recover attorney's fees incurred in proving entitlement to and amount of fees.  [Added 4/20/09]  -- Milanick v. Osborne, 6 So.3d 729 (Fla. 5th DCA2009) (on motion for clarification). 

Law authorizing Legislature to discipline lobbyists does not violate separation of powers doctrine or infringe on Supreme Court's authority to regulate lawyers.  [Added 3/20/2009]  --  Florida Ass'n of Professional Lobbyists, Inc. v. Division of Legislative Information Services, 7 So.3d 511 (Fla. 2009). 

Lawyer who acts as city attorney because his firm was retained as independent contractor must comply with financial disclosure law.  [Added 12/17/08]  --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 08-27. 

Florida Commission on Ethics addresses conflict issues presented by lawyer who is employee/general counsel of county health facilities authority and principal in private law firm.  [Added 8/6/08] --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 08-15. 

Florida Commission on Ethics renders opinion on possible voting conflict of non-lawyer law firm member who acts as a lobbyist.  [Added 6/25/08]  --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 08-13. 

Financial disclosure laws apply to Regional Counsel (but not assistant counsel) in new Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel offices.  [Added 4/30/08]  --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 08-9. 

Public official falsely accused of ethics law violations not required to prove "actual malice" to recover fees and costs from accusers.  [Added 12/5/07]  --  Brown v. Florida Comm'n on Ethics, 969 So.2d 553 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007) (on rehearing). 

Florida Commission on Ethics advises that conflict of interest under Florida ethics laws exists when member of city commissioner's law firm represents clients before Commission, but not before other city Boards.  [Added 6/7/07]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 07-13. 

Florida Commission on Ethics advises that law firm can be "lobbying firm" under state ethics law if even one firm lawyer is registered to lobby.  [Added 6/7/07]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 07-08. 

Florida Commission on Ethics order denying attorney's fees to subject of ethics complaint is reversed by Fifth DCA.  [Added 2/21/07]  -- Osborne v. Commission on Ethics, 951 So.2d 25 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007). 

Florida Commission on Ethics opines whether conflict of interest exists where member of housing authority is partner in law firm that provides legal services to housing authority.  [Added 2/21/07]  --  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 07-1. 

Former Brevard County Commission may not lobby county staff nor attend county commission for 2 years after leaving office.  [Added 1/8/07]  -- Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion CEO 06-22. 

Bar Board of Governors revised ethics opinion to broaden ability of county attorney to represent individual county commission members charged by Florida Commission on Ethics. Florida Ethics Opinion 77-30 (Reconsideration). 

Florida Commission on Ethics opines that lawyer formerly employed by state agency cannot represent clients against agency for 2 years after leaving its employ.  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 06-1. 

Appeals court reverses Ethics Commission order finding that lawyer/public official violated state ethics laws on conflict of interest. Fanizza v. State of Florida, Commission on Ethics, 927 So.2d 23 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006). 

State ethics law does not require recusal of or disclosure by lawyer who, as city commissioner, would vote on ordinance relating to private client's area of business.  Florida Commission on Ethics Opinion 05-15.