Florida Is Set to Implement Transparency Law in 2024; Now, Local Officials Are Quitting in Droves – RedState

Florida Is Set to Implement Transparency Law in 2024; Now, Local Officials Are Quitting in Droves – RedState

Here’s a story that will make you say “hmmmm?”

A new Florida law requiring local government officials to adhere to updated financial disclosure requirements is set to go into effect in 2024. The measure, known as Form 6, has prompted a wave of resignations among small-town leaders all across the Sunshine State.

The law mandates that local elected officials file detailed personal financial information each year.

The law, passed by the state legislature earlier this year, requires local elected officials to annually file a financial disclosure known as Form 6. It replaces a predecessor named Form 1, and lowers the reporting requirement of liabilities and assets in excess of $10,000 to $1,000, The Tampa Bay Times reports.

The form is two pages to fill out, and asks lawmakers for their net worth, the dollar amounts of their income, assets and liabilities and interests in specified businesses.

The new law has reportedly prompted many elected officials to jump ship. Some complained that the law constitutes an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

More than a dozen mayors and city council members are stepping down.

8 On Your Side investigator Mahsa Saeidi is looking into this unprecedented shakeup.

Right now, many state officials have to reveal detailed, personal financial information: the governor, all lawmakers, county commissioners, school board members and sheriffs. But if you’re a mayor or a city council member, you don’t have to reveal this information.

That is about to change on Jan. 1, and lots of folks are not happy.

It’s a local government shakeup. From Belleair Beach to St. Pete Beach and beyond.

Mayors and city council members are upset, and protesting, a new financial disclosure law.

Jarrod Buchman, an Oldsmar council member, addressed the new law during a meeting on Dec. 19.

“I’ll be resigning as of the 30th of this month,” he said.

“The number of elected officials that have resigned, it’s shocking that this is coming.”

Belleair Beach Vice Mayor Jody Shirley also announced she was stepping down.

Those who do not comply with the new requirement could face fines or impeachment. Supporters of the measure argue that it prompts elected officials to be more transparent about their finances and could help to root out corruption. 

State Rep. Spencer Roach said, “When you serve in public office, it’s an honor but it also comes with a higher level of transparency and public scrutiny than you would otherwise.”

Conversely, Belleair Mayor Mike Wilkinson balked at the suggestion, telling Fox 13 that it is “just a complete invasion of privacy,” and that “we are volunteers; we’re not career politicians.”

However, Roach countered this sentiment by pointing out that even in small towns, these officials wield vast power, and oversee how millions of taxpayer dollars are spent.

Roach said:

This is just going to bring a greater level of transparency and sunshine to local government. Officials who are making procurement decisions, that are letting out millions, in some cases billions, of dollars of contacts using taxpayer money. The public knows whether they have a financial interest in these companies that they’re using taxpayer dollars to use business with.

While transparency in government is certainly important, there could be valid concerns about privacy, even when it comes to elected officials. However, those seeking office now know what will be required of them, meaning that they can still choose not to run. In situations like these, analyzing both sides of the issue is essential, but in the end, it is best to err on the side of transparency and accountability. Even if these leaders are governing a small town, corruption can still be rampant, which inevitably harms the very people they are charged with leading.

Originally Posted on: https://redstate.com/jeffc/2023/12/23/florida-implements-transparency-law-now-local-officials-are-quitting-in-droves-n2167906

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