Fla. Legislature to Crack Down on Corrupt Local Mayors, Council Members, & City Managers-Will Have to Disclose Personal Finances

Corruption runs deep in politics, especially at the local level, where there’s little oversight. Florida State Rep Spencer Roach plans on bringing shady dealings out into the sunshine with CS/HB 37, which will require local mayors and council members to file full and public disclosure of all financial interests by filing a Form 6 report annually. Roach has also added a provision for county and city managers. This outstanding bill will prevent people seeking to enrich themselves from serving in local government.

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Every municipal elected official will have to fill out the complete Form 6 financial disclosure form, just as every state legislator has had to do since 1976. County commissioners, tax collectors, school board members, and sheriffs must file the more comprehensive form. Currently, local elected officials must fill out Form 1, which states their total income but doesn’t show details about how they made that income.

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The Florida Commission on Ethics officially supports governance in the sunshine, and they endorse this bill and the addition of financial disclosures for city and county managers. How local officials have managed to slither out of such a needed form of transparency is unknown.

Regarding why this bill should pass, Rep Roach said;

“For the life of me, I can’t figure out a good counterargument about why voters shouldn’t know how local elected officials make their money. Voters should be able to see if city contracts are being steered to these officials, their family members, or some shell company they own. They need to see if their local elected officials are receiving any financial compensation from those attached to projects they’ve voted in favor of. Some in office don’t want to subject themselves to public scrutiny, yet they want to reap the benefits of public service. Their finances should be transparent and out in the sunshine. We do it at the state level. If It’s goose for the goose, it’s good for the gander.”

City and County managers have enormous power. They are often making four times the amount of the actual elected officials. Former local elected officials members confirmed that city/county managers steer government contracts all of the time. They are vetting and telling the elected officials whom they should choose. With as much disposable income as these managers have, there is no reason why the public shouldn’t be aware of how they’re earning their pay.

Politicians at the local have little oversight. Corruption is rampant. Votes for money are an excellent reason to keep political terms short and demand full financial disclosure from elected officials.

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There is much corruption in local government. The only way to keep mayors and council members honest, show us the money. This isn’t a partisan bill, but the liberal-leaning League of Cities is opposed for two reasons. One, they believe that municipalities with a smaller budget shouldn’t be subject to this. As Representative Caruso pointed out in the Elections ethics, and integrity committee, the smallest city in Florida has fifteen people. Those fifteen are taxpayers entitled to the same transparency as anyone else.

If you’re a mayor currently in office and you know you’ve taken money that you shouldn’t have, resign from office now. In January 2024, you will have to show us where every drop of money you have earned has come from.

The league’s other issue is the city and county manager provision. They seem to feel people won’t want to serve under this scrutiny. Roach says;

“Untrue. This is the same argument made many years ago at the state level, and they have yet to have a problem finding people to serve.”

Rep Rick Roth made the critical point that if a financial disclosure is going to prevent someone from serving, that’s probably a person who shouldn’t be serving to begin with. 

Roach says;

“Anecdotal research shows that corruption is happening at the local level, not at the state level. This bill ensures transparency. We’re trying to stop corruption before it happens.”

The Form 6 will have to be filled out in January of every year. Consider this a heads up, mayors and council members. If you’re doing something criminal, you may want to resign now because, come January 2024, your finances will be in the sunshine for all of us to see.

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