Some Local Officials Resigning Over New Disclosure Requirements
"Form 6" Forces Municipal Officials to Reveal All Significant Income, Assets
Last updated 12/28/2023 at 5:35pm
A new financial disclosure requirement that has caused hundreds of municipal officials across the state to resign their offices is also having impacts in the Lake Wales area.
The state law, which takes effect January 1, requires every elected official in cities, towns, and villages across the state to complete a comprehensive disclosure of income and assets that many consider draconian. The form will replace the simpler, and less invasive, Form 1 previously required.
The requirement for Form 6 was formerly applied only to state officials. It requires all income and assets of more than $1,000 to be disclosed.
The Ethics Requirements for Public Officials bill was sponsored by Senator Jason Brodeur of Lake Mary. Brodeur was also the author of a controversial bill which would have required anyone "blogging" about political issues in Florida to register with the state or pay fines. The measure was viewed by many as an attack on free speech.
Locally, one of the three unpaid village council members in Highland Park, Mandy Updike, has indicated that she will resign their positions rather than comply with the law, according to former Highland Park Mayor Blair Updike, who told LakeWalesNews.net that "nobody wants to give a list of all their private possessions for public consumption."
Updike also pointed out that completing the form would require the help of a CPA for many, including the unpaid volunteers on the village council.
According to a spokesperson for the City of Frostproof, at least one council member there is also considering stepping down, as has one in Fort Meade.
The law is especially difficult for practicing attorneys, who would be forced to disclose their clients, a conflict with the rules of the Florida Bar.
"How much personal information should a private citizen who chooses to serve in civil government be required to disclose?" Hilligoss asked. He added that if a person chooses to run for public office, they should "be prepared to be very transparent with the public." He added that the requirement doesn't concern him personally.
Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson also indicated that he didn't have a problem with the disclosures, having already "completed estate planning and transferred assets out to children, grandchildren, and charitable causes."
"I probably will make the disclosure of remaining assets, stay on the commission and finish out my term," Gibson told the News.
Other Lake Wales commissioners have yet to offer public comment on the law. City Clerk Jennifer Nanek, who would receive any resignation documents submitted by commissioners, was unavailable for comment.
According to the Florida Senate summary, the new law:
• Requires, beginning January 1, 2024, certain local officers (mayors and elected members of the governing body of a municipality) and Commission on Ethics members to file a Form 6 (full and public disclosure of financial interests) with the Commission on Ethics through the Commission's electronic filing system.
• Exempts local officers who are required to file a Form 6 from the present requirement to file the more limited Form 1 (statement of financial interests).
• Clarifies that a candidate for an elected office that requires a filing of a Form 6 must file such at the time of qualifying as a candidate for that office.
• Requires an individual appointed to fill a vacancy for which an elected local officer was required to file a Form 6, to file one annually for the remainder of the appointee's term.
• Maintains current law, beginning January 1, 2024, that each Form 1 filer must file his or her annual Form 1 financial disclosure by filling out his or her Form 1 on the Commission on Ethic's electronic filing system by the due date annually and extends the filing deadline from 5:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.
• As a conforming change, removes supervisors of elections from being involved in the Form 1 filing process, except for non-incumbent candidates.
• Requires, beginning January 1, 2024, local officers to file their quarterly reports of the names of clients represented for a fee or commission through the Commission's electronic filing system.
• Allows Form 1 and Form 6 filers to submit federal income tax returns, including all associated attachments and schedules, to report income and requires that filers who choose to file a federal income tax return to report income must also include all attachments and schedules associated with the tax return.