402.166 Florida local advocacy councils; confidential records and meetings.—
(1) The local councils are subject to direction from and the supervision of the statewide council. The statewide council shall assign staff to provide support to the local councils. The number and areas of responsibility of the local councils, not to exceed 46 councils statewide, shall be determined by the statewide council and shall be consistent with judicial circuit boundaries. Local councils shall meet at facilities under their jurisdiction whenever possible.
(2) Each local council shall have no fewer than 7 members and no more than 15 members, no more than 4 of whom are or have been recipients of one or more client services within the last 4 years, except that one member of this group may be an immediate relative or legal representative of a current or former client; two providers who deliver client services as defined in s. 402.164(2); and two representatives of professional organizations, one of whom represents the health-related professions and one of whom represents the legal profession. Priority of consideration shall be given to the appointment of at least one medical or osteopathic physician, as defined in chapters 458 and 459, and one member in good standing of The Florida Bar. Priority of consideration shall also be given to the appointment of an individual who is receiving client services and whose primary interest, experience, or expertise lies with a major client group not represented on the local council at the time of the appointment. A person who is employed in client services by any state agency may not be appointed to the local council. No more than three individuals who are providing contracted services for clients to any state agency may serve on the same local council at the same time. Persons related to each other by consanguinity or affinity within the third degree may not serve on the same local council at the same time. All members of local councils must successfully complete a standardized training course for council members within 3 months after their appointment to a local council. A member may not be assigned to an investigation that requires access to confidential information prior to the completion of the training course. After he or she completes the required training course, a member of a local council may not be prevented from participating in any activity of that local council, including investigations and monitoring, except due to a conflict of interest as described in the procedures established by the statewide council under subsection (7).
(3)(a) With respect to existing local councils, each member shall serve a term of 4 years. Upon expiration of a term and in the case of any other vacancy, the local council shall appoint a replacement by majority vote of the local council, subject to the approval of the Governor. A member may serve no more than two full consecutive terms.
(b)1. The Governor shall appoint the first four members of any newly created local council; and those four members shall select the remaining members, subject to approval of the Governor. If any of the first four members are not appointed within 60 days after a request is submitted to the Governor, those members may be appointed by a majority vote of the statewide council without further action by the Governor.
2. Members shall serve for no more than two full consecutive terms of 4 years, except that at the time of initial appointment, terms shall be staggered so that approximately one-half of the members first appointed shall serve for terms of 4 years and the remaining members shall serve for terms of 2 years. Vacancies shall be filled as provided in subparagraph 1.
(c) If no action is taken by the Governor to approve or disapprove a replacement of a member under this subsection within 60 days after the local council has notified the Governor of the appointment, then the appointment of the replacement may be considered approved by the Governor.
(4) Each local council shall elect a chair and a vice chair for a term of 1 year. A person may not serve as chair or vice chair for more than two consecutive terms. The chair’s and vice chair’s terms expire on September 30 of each year.
(5) If a local council member fails to attend two-thirds of the regular local council meetings during the course of a year, the local council may replace the member. If a member of a local council violates this section or procedures adopted under this section, the local council may recommend to the Governor that the member be removed.
(6) A member of a local council shall receive no compensation but is entitled to be reimbursed for per diem and travel expenses as provided in s. 112.061. Members may be provided reimbursement for long-distance telephone calls if the calls were necessary to an investigation of an abuse or deprivation of constitutional or human rights.
(7) A local council shall first seek to resolve a complaint with the appropriate local administration, agency, or program; any matter not resolved by the local council shall be referred to the statewide council. A local council shall comply with appeal procedures established by the statewide council. The duties, actions, and procedures of both new and existing local councils shall conform to ss. 402.164-402.167. The duties of each local council shall include, but are not limited to:
(a) Serving as an independent third-party mechanism for protecting the constitutional and human rights of any client within a program or facility operated, funded, or contracted by a state agency providing client services in the local services area.
(b) Monitoring by site visit and access to records the delivery and use of services, programs, or facilities operated, funded, or contracted by a state agency that provides client services, for the purpose of preventing abuse or deprivation of the constitutional and human rights of clients. A local council may conduct an unannounced site visit or monitoring visit that involves access to records if the visit is conditioned upon a complaint. A complaint may be generated by the council itself if information from a state agency that provides client services or from other sources indicates a situation at the program or facility that indicates possible abuse or neglect or deprivation of constitutional and human rights of clients. The local council shall follow uniform criteria established by the statewide council for the review of information and generation of complaints. Routine program monitoring and reviews that do not require an examination of records may be made unannounced.
(c) Receiving, investigating, and resolving reports of abuse or deprivation of constitutional and human rights by a state agency or contracted service provider in the local service area.
(d) Reviewing and making recommendations regarding how a client’s constitutional or human rights might be affected by the client’s participation in a proposed research project, prior to implementation of the project.
(e) Appealing to the statewide council any complaint unresolved at the local level. Any matter that constitutes a threat to the life, safety, or health of a client or is multiservice-area in scope shall automatically be referred to the statewide council.
(f) Submitting an annual report by September 30 to the statewide council concerning activities, recommendations, and complaints reviewed or developed by the local council during the year.
(g) Conducting meetings at least six times a year at the call of the chair and at other times at the call of the Governor, at the call of the statewide council, or by written request of a majority of the members of the local council.
(8)(a) In the performance of its duties, a local council shall have the same authority to access client records, state agency files, reports from any program or service, records of contractors and providers, and records from any facility operated, funded, or under contract with a state agency as specified in s. 402.165(8)(a).
(b) All information obtained or produced by a local council that is made confidential by law, that relates to the identity of any client or group of clients subject to the protection of this section, or that relates to the identity of an individual who provides information to the local council about abuse or about alleged violations of constitutional or human rights, is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.
(c) Portions of meetings of a local council that relate to the identity of any client or group of clients subject to the protections of this section, that relate to the identity of an individual who provides information to the local council about abuse or about alleged violations of constitutional or human rights, or when testimony is provided relating to records otherwise made confidential by law, are exempt from s. 286.011 and s. 24(b), Art. I of the State Constitution.
(d) All records prepared by members of a local council that reflect a mental impression, investigative strategy, or theory are exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution until the investigation is completed or until the investigation ceases to be active. For purposes of this section, an investigation is considered “active” while the investigation is being conducted by a local council with a reasonable, good faith belief that it may lead to a finding of abuse or of a violation of constitutional or human rights. An investigation does not cease to be active so long as the local council is proceeding with reasonable dispatch and there is a good faith belief that action may be initiated by the local council or other administrative or law enforcement agency.
(e) Any person who knowingly and willfully discloses any such confidential information commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
History.—ss. 2, 5, ch. 89-215; s. 5, ch. 91-429; s. 807, ch. 95-148; s. 6, ch. 95-407; s. 237, ch. 96-406; s. 145, ch. 98-403; s. 135, ch. 99-8; s. 3, ch. 2000-263; s. 39, ch. 2001-62; s. 3, ch. 2004-376.