The recent implementation of a new rule mandating municipal elected officials to disclose detailed financial information has led many officials to either resign or seriously contemplate doing so before the deadline. In Pinellas County, fifteen officials have already resigned, while three officials in North Palm Beach and sixteen officials in West Palm Beach are currently considering or have already taken a leave of absence.
According to Matt Carlucci, a member of the Jacksonville City Council, all elected officials in Jacksonville have long been obligated to file Form 6, which provides comprehensive details regarding their wealth, assets, liabilities, companies, and salaries.
Under the new state law, elected officials, including mayors, have until January 1st to complete this requirement. Until now, not all officials were required to submit the most comprehensive financial disclosure form, known as “Form 1.” This initiative aims to enhance transparency and safeguard public interest, as stated by Carlucci, who previously served on the ethics committee.
Two significant outcomes emerged from this development: firstly, Form 6 played a crucial role in uncovering numerous conflicts of interest. Secondly, Carlucci mentioned that it resulted in some individuals incorrectly completing the form. For instance, it would constitute a conflict of interest if an official invested in a development company and, while sitting on the board responsible for approving development projects, cast a vote in favor of a developer that would increase both the company’s and the official’s profits. Such conflicts occasionally arise, and “when correctly filled out, these disclosures help mitigate such issues.”
Officials who have chosen to step down have expressed concerns about “a complete invasion of privacy” and “an attack on home rule and small municipalities.”
Carlucci emphasized that every city, regardless of its size, deals with significant financial transactions that necessitate careful monitoring. Failure to comply with the disclosure requirements may result in fines or even impeachment for elected authorities.
Given the vacancies left by those who resigned, it will be necessary to appoint new representatives to ensure effective representation for the affected areas. The new regulations were cited as the reason behind the resignation of Jacksonville Beach councilman Cory Nichols.
In his resignation letter, Nichols explained that his decision to retire after five years on the council was motivated by the State’s imposition of changes to financial disclosures, which he viewed as a significant overreach and a direct infringement on the principle of “Home Rule” for local communities.
While acknowledging the importance of personal privacy, Carlucci underscored the necessity for public servants to make certain compromises. It is worth noting that members of the school board, county commission, or sheriff’s office who are elected have already been required to complete Form 6.The mayor of Jacksonville is also included.