Legal Report, July 2014

General Counsel, Trela J. White

1. Posting of Budget on Municipality’s Official Website

Section 166.241(3), Florida Statutes, states that a municipality’s tentative budget must be posted on the municipality’s official website at least 2 days before its budget hearings.  The final adopted budget must be posted on the municipality’s official website within 30 days after adoption.  If the municipality does not operate an official website, then the municipality must, within a reasonable period of time, transmit the tentative budget and final budget to the county administrator who shall post the budgets on the county’s website.

2. AGO 2014-04. Local Governments’ Ability to Recover Special Magistrate Charges as “Costs” In Code Enforcement Proceedings.

The Town of Windermere asked the Florida Attorney General whether it could recover from code violators the amount it pays to its code enforcement special magistrate for his time in attending code enforcement hearings.  The Attorney General concluded that the town was not able to recover such amounts.  In support, the Attorney General cited Section 162.07(2), Florida Statutes, which provides that “If the local governing body prevails in prosecuting a case before a code enforcement board, it shall be entitled to recover all costs incurred in prosecuting the case before the board and such costs may be included in the lien authorized under s. 162.09(3).”  The Attorney General concluded that payment to the special magistrate was a payment of “attorney’s fees,” and not a payment of “costs” as that term is normally defined by the Florida courts.

But see, Town of Jupiter v. Byrd Family Trust, Fourth District Court of Appeal Case No. 4D13-2570 (local governments are not preempted by Chapter 162, Florida Statutes, from adopting ordinances that allow them to recover their city attorney’s fees and special magistrate’s attorney’s fees as “costs” in code enforcement cases; ordinances can define “costs” to include attorney’s fees).

3. Town of Gulf Stream et al vs. Palm Beach County, and Sharon R. Bock, as Clerk and Comptroller of Palm Beach County, Intervenor
Case No. 502011CA017953XXXXMB.  Inspector General Funding Lawsuit.
Fourteen municipalities sued Palm Beach County challenging the method of funding for the Inspector General Program (the “OIG Program”).  The current funding method authorizes the Board of County Commissioners to set an amount the municipalities must pay for the OIG Program, and to bill municipalities for that amount.  The municipalities contend that the current funding method is an unlawful tax and invades municipal home rule budgetary authority.  On March 19, 2014, the Trial Court issued an order setting the case for trial during the trial docket commencing on August 4, 2014, and ending on August 29, 2014.  A specific trial date will be assigned on July 25, 2014.  No further action has been taken by the Trial Court at this time.