Tampa, Florida -- Tallahassee watchdog group Integrity Florida has released its latest report detailing thousands of dollars of fines accruing for public officials in Florida who failed to file their annual financial disclosures.
According to an Intergrity Florida, 632 state and local officials will soon start facing $25/day fines, up to a $1,500 maximum.
10 News has previously featured Intergrity Florida reports that exposed state corruption and the legislature's lack of motivation to fix it.
READ: Names and positions of the 632 late-filers
Intergrity Florida's report continues:
Should the Florida Commission on Ethics receive a financial disclosure form from any of these officials with a postmark on or before September 4, then all of their fines will be waived. In 2011, the Florida Commission on Ethics had a 99% collection rate with the final list of late filers totaling 361 out of 37,686 officials required to file. As of September 5, the Ethics Commission is at a collection rate of more than 98% with 632 late filers out of 37,532 Florida public officials and employees required to file financial disclosure forms in 2012.
66 current and former Florida officials and employees owe a total of $87,199.03 in fines for late filing of financial interests in past years as of July 9, 2012. See the list here.
Background on state and local outreach to late filers
The deadline for financial disclosure forms to be filed was July 1, 2012. A two-month grace period was extended to September 4 this year because of the Labor Day holiday.
4,284 late filers were mailed certified notices (required by statute) by either the Florida Commission on Ethics or one of the 67 Supervisors of Elections, depending on the individual's position, on July 31st at a cost of more than $20,000 to Florida taxpayers ($4.75 each).
2,313 late filers were mailed a reminder postcard (not required by statute) by the Florida Commission on Ethics around August 10 at a cost of $0.32 each.
There were 1,240 late filers as of August 29 and the Florida Commission on Ethics staff along with many state and local agencies have attempted to call these individuals (not required by statute).
Integrity Florida published Corruption Risk Report: Financial Disclosure on July 30, 2012 and our research report policy recommendations to the Florida Legislature included:
- Fine enforcement: Late financial disclosure filers should be subject to automatic fines withheld from the government wages (or government contract payments) of someone who currently is in office or employment or otherwise is being paid by Florida governments. Liens on personal property should also be considered to apply to automobiles or other significant assets to enforce fines.
- Adopt Louisiana financial disclosure form: Florida should adopt the more detailed financial disclosure form used by Louisiana.
- Provide public access to disclosures online: The public should have access to an online, searchable database of state officials' financial disclosure information, potential voting conflicts and gifts received.
Integrity Florida published Corruption Risk Report: Florida Ethics Laws on June 6, 2012 and our research report policy recommendations to the Florida Legislature included:
- Create an online financial disclosure filing system: Financial disclosure forms should be filed electronically and made publicly available online in a searchable, updatable and downloadable format.
Require top officials to disclose major transactions: Require all cabinet officials, state legislators, state agency heads and local elected officials to disclose details of all major financial transactions over $1,000 within the previous year, including stock trades, property transactions and changes in business ownership.