[1996/oagheade.htm]

OAG 96-17

March 20, 1996

Subject: Interpretation and application of local ethics code.

Written By: Thomas R. Emerson, Assistant Attorney General

Requested By: N. Scott Lilly, Esq., Office of the Jefferson County Attorney

Syllabus: Joint city-county entities are not units of city or county governments for purposes of KRS 65.003 and the members of the governing boards of such entities are not subject to the required ethics codes implemented by the governments which appointed them to those joint city-county boards and commissions.

OAGs Cited: OAG 94-71, OAG 66-777, OAG 78-646, OAG 81-240

Statutes Construed: KRS 65.003

OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Your questions involve a situation where local governments have jointly created agencies. You ask whether the individual members of local boards and commissions composed of city and county appointees, such as the Louisville-Jefferson County Planning Commission, can be made subject to their appointing entity's code of ethics. You also ask that if members of such jointly created agencies are exempt from the ethics code enacted by their appointing authority, can the joint agency lawfully adopt and enforce its own code of ethics. If not, you ask if the appointing authorities may mutually adopt and enforce an ethics code applicable only to their joint agencies or would a separate code have to be adopted for each such agency.

KRS 65.003(1) requires in part that each city and county, including urban-counties [Lexington-Fayette] and charter counties adopt by ordinance a code of ethics. The statute makes numerous references to a city and county and a city or county.

In OAG 94-71 this office concluded that KRS 65.003 does not apply to special districts whose directors are appointed by county or urban-county officials. The statute makes no reference to officers or employees of governmental units other than cities or counties. It applies or can be applied to three groups: elected officials of the city or county, appointed officials of the city or county, and employees of the city or county.

This office dealt with the nature of a joint city-county planning and zoning commission in OAG 66-777, copy enclosed. That commission was composed of representatives of the city, county, and state. Although the members were appointed by their respective units of government, they appeared to lose their identity as representatives of their governments and functioned in a joint or unified capacity. In carrying out their duties on the joint commission these members cannot be defined individually as city, county, or state officers. The joint commission was, in effect, a hybrid and was neither a city, county, nor state agency.

Over the years this office has dealt with other joint city-county entities on a number of occasions. For example, in OAG 78-646, copy enclosed, this office concluded that a joint city-county health department would be considered a hybrid agency. The same result was reached in OAG 81-240, copy enclosed, relative to a city county parks and recreation board. See also City of Louisville Municipal Housing Commission v. Public Housing Administration, Ky., 261 S.W.2d 286 (1953).

Thus, in our opinion, joint city-county entities are not units of city or county governments for purposes of KRS 65.003 and the members of the governing boards of such entities are not subject to the required ethics codes implemented by the governments which appointed them to those joint city-county boards and commissions.

While we do not know precisely what jointly created city-county agencies you are concerned with, and while such entities do not have the range and extent of powers that cities and counties do, we presume that most of these city-county agencies would have sufficient authority to enact an ethics code applicable to their officers, administrators, and employees. Such a code is not required of these city-county agencies by the terms and provisions of KRS 65.003.

In view of our qualified affirmative answer to your second question, as set forth in the paragraph immediately above, we will not address your third question pertaining to the adoption of an ethics code, either mutually or separately, by the governments creating the joint agency, and applicable to that joint city-county agency.

A.B. CHANDLER III

ATTORNEY GENERAL

THOMAS R. EMERSON

ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL