Florida’s local governments have been hit with a wave of mass resignations as the state’s new laws regarding financial disclosures have come into effect.
The controversial new law requires officials to give a thorough report of their finances.
Local officials were previously required to fill out a less detailed form, Form 1.
Under the new rules, however, local officials are now required to report their net worth, assets, and liabilities in excess of $1,000, along with any business clients.
The reform has shaken up local politics, with many local officials choosing to resign rather than complete Form 6.
The law’s backers say it promotes transparency in local government.
Detractors, like ex-Eagle Lake Mayor Cory Coler, say the new requirements are invasive and will drive people away from serving.
Coler resigned as mayor last month over the new law.
“As much as I love my city and I do and as I love being able to serve the community, it put me at an impasse because that’s information I share with my spouse,” said Coler in December while stepping down.
“Not something I broadcast to my neighbors.
“Now people have information about you, they didn’t have before, and they might look at you differently because of how much you make or how much you have in the bank, which doesn’t affect the decision-making I do in a day in and day out basis that I do as a commissioner,” Coler said.
“When you’re talking about a city that’s 3,000 residents, there are not a lot of people willing to share up that information for people.”
Supporters of the financial disclosures, like state Rep. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers), say transparency comes with the job.
“For someone who’s never done this form before, I mean, it could be a little bit of a learning curve, but I think largely those are excuses,” Roach said.
“Look, 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.
“And you know, to borrow an old adage — if you can’t take the heat, don’t come in the kitchen.”
A long list of state and local officials, from the governor down to tax collectors, sheriffs, and school board members, are already required to complete Form 6.
The reform passed the Republican state legislature with overwhelming support from both parties.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed it into law in May.
While it’s understandable that small-town officials want their privacy, they are in a position of public trust, and that comes with certain expectations.