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Ethics Reform – A Primer for 2013

Ethics reform was one of the highest priorities on the legislative agenda this year in Tallahassee. The bill that eventually became law makes rather significant changes to Florida’s ethics statute (Chapter 112.313) and several changes will impact local elected officials.

The 2013 Legislature created a new section entitled “dual public employment” prohibiting state and local elected officials from accepting public employment with the state or local governments unless certain conditions are met. The new law also covers public officers employed by public agencies before qualifying for office and permits the public officer to continue his or her public employment, but delineates steps that must be taken before the individual is promoted or receives additional compensation if such advancement occurs after he or she qualifies for office or is elected.

Other noteworthy amendments to the state ethics laws include revisions to the voting conflicts section of state ethics law by defining two important phrases: “principal by whom retained” and “special private gain or loss.” Furthermore, under the revised law, a public officer who establishes a qualified blind trust will be permitted to vote on matters pertaining to his or interests in the blind trust.

Financial disclosure was addressed by the 2013 Florida Legislature as well. The most controversial change was to treat an amended statement of financial interests filed prior to September 1 as the original regardless of whether a complaint is filed against the elected official based on the initial filing. Beginning with 2012 filing year, all financial disclosure forms filed with the state ethics commission must be scanned and made publicly available by the commission through a searchable Internet database.

Lastly, the 2013 ethics amendments prohibit reporting individuals (local elected officials and specified local government employees) from accepting a gift from a vendor doing business with the reporting individual’s agency in excess of $100.00 and establish an outright ban on gifts to the reporting individual and the individual’s immediate family from a political committee.

With more than thirty attorneys practicing day-to-day municipal law, WSH’s Local Government Law Division is one of the largest in the country. The Group includes many former city and county attorneys, and those that are Florida Bar Board Certified in this specialty. In addition, WSH attorneys include former State and local bar presidents and members of the Florida Bar Board of Governors. Our attorneys have extensive experience representing both elected and appointed government officials and local governments before local and State ethics commissions.

Robert Meyers, Of Counsel to WSH, is the immediate past Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. As the Ethics Commission’s chief executive officer for the past thirteen years, he oversaw all operations, including enforcement, advice-giving and training/education. Robert frequently lectures on topics of ethics, governance, and leadership.

Categories: Local GovernmentEthics & Professional Responsibility
Tags: Municipal GovernmentEthicsSpecial Counsel to Local GovernmentMitchell A. BiermanJamie A. ColeChad S. FriedmanRichard Jay WeissDavid M. WolpinFlorida LegislatureFort Lauderdale Local Government LawMiami Local Government LawSouth Florida Local Government LawFort Lauderdale Municipal AttorneysMiami Municipal AttorneysSouth Florida Municipal AttorneysRobert Meyers
Author(s): Robert Meyers