Money Coming from Ethics Violations; Fines Are a Necessary Part of Late Filing of Disclosure Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

Florida will rake in cash pretty soon from people who broke state ethics rules.

But it seems like ethics workers really don't want to.

State employees spent hours calling hundreds of people recently reminding them to file paperwork that's required by law.

Thousands of other Floridians got letters spelling out when they had to file financial disclosure reports, and why. The short answer is Florida law says they have to disclose their financial interests if they could influence how taxpayer money is spent. If they didn't file the first time, they were sent more mail - some certified, some postcards that would be easy to read, all asking recipients to fill out the disclosure forms.

"We make every effort that we possibly can. Not just things that are statutorily required, but beyond that," said Kerrie Stillman, director of operations and communications at the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Just the same, this is a season when people who were supposed to file are fined $25 a day for missing the state deadline.

The meter started running Sept. 5 and will top out at $1,500 after 60 days.

Friday nearly 400 Floridians faced about $80,000 in fines. Notices started going out in May saying the filings were due "on or before" July 2, but a two-month grace period expires before the fines start.

Jacksonville Transportation Authority member Steve Diebenow, a lawyer, said reminders from the ethics commission helped him stay off that list. He filed with the state Sept. 4.

About 37,000 people statewide each year report something about their business interests because of laws written to control corruption. …


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