Mass resignations throughout Florida as new financial disclosure rules take effect

 January 2, 2024

There will be lots of job openings in Florida's local governments this year, after a controversial new law was passed that requires officials to give a thorough report of their finances.

Local officials were previously required to fill out a less detailed form, Form 1. The new rules require local officials to report their net worth, assets and liabilities in excess of $1,000, and any business clients.

The reform has shaken up local politics, with many local officials choosing to resign rather than complete Form 6.

Exodus hits Florida

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.

"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. Not something I broadcast to my neighbors," said Coler, who stepped down in December.

"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."

Can't take the heat?

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.”

"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," he said. "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, and 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.

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