January 01, 2016
Resolution on Ethics in Florida Government
Florida Alliance for Retired Americans
Public corruption is pervasive at all levels of government in Florida. This is according to a December 2010 report, “A Study of Public Corruption in Florida” by the 19th Statewide Grand Jury. According to the grand jury report, between 2000 and 2010 a total of 8,241 arrest charges were made and there were 1,126 convictions for public corruption. Florida led all states in public corruption convictions. Cadets at West Point and other military academies swear an oath not to lie, cheat or steal or tolerate others that do. Public officials should be held to this same standard. Our democracy cannot function properly unless there is public trust in elected officials. Thomas Jefferson said that, “When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself a public property”
- The legislature should enact law adopting the recommendations contained in the December 2010 19th Statewide Grand Jury report.
- The legislature should enact law giving the Florida Commission on Ethics the power to self initiate ethics investigations based upon the receipt of sufficient evidence based on a supermajority vote of the members. Currently the Commission cannot initiate an investigation unless there is a complaint.
- All state and local agencies, the Governor’s Office, the House of Representatives and the Florida Senate should be required to have an independent Chief Ethics Officer who is responsible for fostering an ethical culture and ensuring that all appropriate persons in that entity are trained in Florida’s ethics laws.
- Florida law should be provide that the Florida Commission on Ethics must approve the firing of a Chief Ethics Officer or an Inspector General.
- All contracts with state vendors should be public to promote transparency with the use of public funds. To ensure transparency in decision-making by contractors, Florida’s open records law should apply to statutory entities that receive state funds; public meetings held by these entities must be noticed in advance with agendas and meeting materials made available to the public.
- The legislature should undertake a review of current penalties for public corruption to determine if strengthening penalties would serve to deter corruption and if they are sufficient to appropriately punish violators.
Be it resolved that significant legal reforms are needed to reduce public corruption and restore public trust. We call upon the Florida Legislature to enact legislation to implement each of the preceding recommendations.