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HomeGeneralFlorida City Officials Resign Days Before New Law Requiring Net Worth Disclosure...

Florida City Officials Resign Days Before New Law Requiring Net Worth Disclosure Comes Into Effect

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On January 1 of this year, a new law came into effect. And it had quite an interesting effect on elected officials in Florida. The law will require a high level of financial disclosure for local elected officials. This will allow for more transparency, something lacking in Florida’s political climate. 

There has been a push for transparency among Sunshine State politicians and the Florida Ethics Commission. However, there have been a lot of resignations from officials, and they all cite invasion of privacy.

Two city commissioners from Daytona Beach shores have resigned. They are the latest in the mass exodus of local elected officials who left before January 1. Which was when the new law tightened financial disclosure requirements.

Shores commissioner Mel Lindaur has been at her job since 2016. But she recently revealed that the new requirement, which involves submitting a “Form 6,”  is “totally invasive” and ultimately purposeless.

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Commissioner Richard Bryan has also served since 2016. He handed in his resignation letter on December 21, arguing that he had another priority. But admitting that the Form 6 issue had “affected the timing” of his decision.

The commission is now down to three members, but only briefly. Mayor Nancy Miller said there will be talks on how to fill the vacancies during a workshop on January 9. The mass exodus follows the recent revelation of city officials’ salaries by The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

The piece analyzed data from the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. It showed that the City of Daytona Beach Shores has the highest annual salary per employee. The piece also highlighted recent actions of the City Commission, including a shady pay raise for its city manager.

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Mayor Nancy Miller pushed the approval of the $1000 per month pay raise for the city manager to match his salary to his predecessor. Never mind that he had just seven months on the job, unlike his predecessor, who had over 20 years in the role and a favorable employment contract.

The new law has been cited statewide by local elected officials who have resigned from cities including Fort Myers Beach, Bellear, Naples, Jacksonville Beach, North Palm Beach, Cedar Key, and St. Pete Beach, among others.

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Despite their reactions, the form 6 is nothing new to politics. In fact, many state officials submitted Form 6 starting in the 1970s, including the governor and Cabinet, legislators, sheriffs, and county council members. 

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The form simply requires the disclosure of the filer’s net worth and holdings valued over $1,000, including bank accounts, stocks, salary dividends, and retirement accounts. Meanwhile, republicans are in support.  

Republican Senator Jason Brodeur sponsored the legislation in the Florida Senate. And Republican Senator Spencer Roach of Fort Myers sponsored the House version of the bill, arguing it leads to “parity” among elected officials. The Florida Commission on Ethics has been pushing for the expansion of the legislation for years now.

“Enhanced financial disclosure will increase public trust. The reason why (the) financial disclosure (form) is filled out is to provide transparency, increase public confidence in government, and help identify potential conflicts of interest of public officials,” Kerrie Stillman, executive director of the commission, told the Senate Rules Committee in March 2023.

Stillman praised Florida as “a leader of transparency” and said political corruption had been uncovered at all levels of government. “These elected officials are asking for citizens’ votes.

They’re asking to hold the public trust,” she explained, “and as part of the exercise of disclosing financial interests and providing information on what might cause a potential conflict of interest, that helps the public official, as well.”

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Lindauer, the recently resigned Shores commissioner, believes that Form 6 is chasing away good officials from public service and is less effective than Form 1, the previous disclosure. 

“People like me, who live a middle-class life and don’t flaunt wealth at all, now people see you in a different light and treat you different,” Lindauer said. “All I want to know is: Am I doing a good job or not?”

Lindaur hopes there will be a pushback on the Legislature following the local elected officials’ resignations. But until then, there will be quite a number of vacant seats. 

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