2015 Florida Statutes
Ex parte communications.
Ex parte communications.
350.042 Ex parte communications.—
(1) A commissioner should accord to every person who is legally interested in a proceeding, or the person’s lawyer, full right to be heard according to law, and, except as authorized by law, shall neither initiate nor consider ex parte communications concerning the merits, threat, or offer of reward in any proceeding under s. 120.569 or s. 120.57 that is currently pending before the commission or that he or she knows or reasonably expects will be filed with the commission within 180 days after the date of any such communication, other than a proceeding under s. 120.54 or s. 120.565, workshops, or internal affairs meetings. An individual may not discuss ex parte with a commissioner the merits of any issue that he or she knows will be filed with the commission within 180 days. This subsection does not apply to commission staff.
(2) The provisions of this section shall not prohibit an individual residential ratepayer from communicating with a commissioner, provided that the ratepayer is representing only himself or herself, without compensation.
(3)(a) The Legislature finds that it is important to have commissioners who are educated and informed on regulatory policies and developments in science, technology, business management, finance, law, and public policy which are associated with the industries that the commissioners regulate. The Legislature also finds that it is in the public interest for commissioners to become educated and informed on these matters through active participation in meetings that are scheduled by organizations that sponsor such educational or informational sessions, programs, conferences, and similar events and that are duly noticed and open to the public.
(b) As used in this subsection, the term “active participation” or “participating in” includes, but is not limited to, attending or speaking at educational sessions, participating in organization governance by attending meetings, serving on committees or in leadership positions, participating in panel discussions, and attending meals and receptions associated with such events that are open to all attendees.
(c) The prohibition in subsection (1) remains in effect at all times at such meetings wherever located. While participating in such meetings, a commissioner shall:
1. Refrain from commenting on or discussing any proceeding under s. 120.569 or s. 120.57 which is currently pending before the commission or that he or she knows or reasonably expects will be filed with the commission within 180 days after the meeting.
2. Use reasonable care to ensure that the content of the educational session or other session in which the commissioner participates is not designed to address or create a forum to influence the commissioner on any proceeding under s. 120.569 or s. 120.57 which is currently pending before the commission or that he or she knows or reasonably expects will be filed with the commission within 180 days after the meeting.
(4) If a commissioner knowingly receives an ex parte communication relative to a proceeding other than as set forth in subsection (1), to which he or she is assigned, he or she must place on the record of the proceeding copies of all written communications received, all written responses to the communications, and a memorandum stating the substance of all oral communications received and all oral responses made, and shall give written notice to all parties to the communication that such matters have been placed on the record. Any party who desires to respond to an ex parte communication may do so. The response must be received by the commission within 10 days after receiving notice that the ex parte communication has been placed on the record. The commissioner may, if he or she deems it necessary to eliminate the effect of an ex parte communication received by him or her, withdraw from the proceeding, in which case the chair shall substitute another commissioner for the proceeding.
(5) Any individual who makes an ex parte communication shall submit to the commission a written statement describing the nature of such communication, to include the name of the person making the communication, the name of the commissioner or commissioners receiving the communication, copies of all written communications made, all written responses to such communications, and a memorandum stating the substance of all oral communications received and all oral responses made. The commission shall place on the record of a proceeding all such communications.
(6) Any commissioner who knowingly fails to place on the record any such communications, in violation of the section, within 15 days of the date of such communication is subject to removal and may be assessed a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000.
(7)(a) It shall be the duty of the Commission on Ethics to receive and investigate sworn complaints of violations of this section pursuant to the procedures contained in ss. 112.322-112.3241.
(b) If the Commission on Ethics finds that there has been a violation of this section by a public service commissioner, it shall provide the Governor and the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council with a report of its findings and recommendations. The Governor is authorized to enforce the findings and recommendations of the Commission on Ethics, pursuant to part III of chapter 112 and to remove from office a commissioner who is found by the Commission on Ethics to have willfully and knowingly violated this section. The Governor shall remove from office a commissioner who is found by the Commission on Ethics to have willfully and knowingly violated this section after a previous finding by the Commission on Ethics that the commissioner willfully and knowingly violated this section in a separate matter.
(c) If a commissioner fails or refuses to pay the Commission on Ethics any civil penalties assessed pursuant to the provisions of this section, the Commission on Ethics may bring an action in any circuit court to enforce such penalty.
(d) If, during the course of an investigation by the Commission on Ethics into an alleged violation of this section, allegations are made as to the identity of the person who participated in the ex parte communication, that person must be given notice and an opportunity to participate in the investigation and relevant proceedings to present a defense. If the Commission on Ethics determines that the person participated in the ex parte communication, the person may not appear before the commission or otherwise represent anyone before the commission for a period of 2 years.
History.—s. 4, ch. 90-272; s. 532, ch. 95-148; s. 5, ch. 2005-132; s. 4, ch. 2015-129.