Florida Special District Handbook Online:
Ethics Laws and Disclosures

The Code of Ethics (Chapter 112, Part III, Florida Statutes - Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees), was created to help:

  • Prevent conflicts between public duty and private interests
  • Ensure that public sector employees and officers will not use government office for private gain

All special district local officers and special district employees must comply with Florida's ethics laws.

Lobbyists wishing to lobby a Water Management District must register with the district prior to undertaking any lobbying activities. For more information, see section 112.3261, Florida Statutes - Lobbying before water management districts; registration and reporting.

This section covers ethics laws and related forms and filings, which are available on the Florida Commission on Ethics - Forms website.

Ethics Disclosures

Lobbyist - For purposes of ethics disclosures, a lobbyist is any natural person who, for compensation, seeks or has sought during the past 12 months to:

  • Influence the governmental decision-making of a special district local officer, procurement employee, or their special district, or,
  • Seeks or sought to encourage the passage, defeat, or modification of any proposal or recommendation by a special district local officer, procurement employee, or their special district

The following public officers and employees must file ethics disclosures:

  • A person elected to a special district's governing body.
  • A person appointed to complete an unexpired term.
  • A person appointed to a special district's governing body.
  • A person seeking nomination or election to a special district's governing body.
  • A special district's chief administrative employee.
  • A fire chief of a fire control special district.
  • A special district purchasing agent making purchases more than $20,000.

Each January, the Florida Commission on Ethics mails surveys to all counties, municipalities, and special districts to find out who must file Statement of Financial Interests (Form 1), the limited disclosure form. The Florida Commission on Ethics then provides a list of those who must file this form to all County Supervisors of Elections. All special district local officers and specified employees (the chief administrative employee and any purchasing agent making purchases more than $20,000) must file this form. They may also need to file additional disclosures, depending upon their position, businesses, or interests. Form 1 describes this in more detail. Therefore, all special district officers and specified employees must review Form 1 carefully. This section summarizes disclosure requirements.

Form 1, Statement of Financial Interests

  • Who must file:
    • All independent special district local officers and specified employees must file this report even if no financial interests exist that require disclosure
  • Where to file:
    • The Supervisor of Elections in the county in which the person permanently resides
  • When to file:
    • Within 30 days of the appointment or date of employment
    • By July 1 every year thereafter
  • Disclose (the form does not require dollar figures):
    • Primary sources of income
    • Secondary sources of any business income
    • Real estate owned
    • Intangible personal property owned
    • Liabilities greater than net worth or $10,000 (depending on the calculation threshold)
    • Interests in specified businesses

Consequences of Failure to File or Properly Complete Form 1, Statement of Financial Interests

This form is due July 1. Any person who does not file this form by September 1 will be subject to automatic fines of $25 for each late day, up to a cap of $1,500. Modeled after the automatic fine system in place for campaign finance reports, the Ethics Commission can hear appeals and has the power to waive fines under limited circumstances.

Read the full set of directions that come with the form and complete the form as required. Contact the Commission on Ethics if you have questions about how to complete the form. Failure to properly complete the form can result in a complaint being filed against you. Penalties for violations found as a result of the complaint process range from a public censure, reprimand, suspension, demotion, reduction in pay, or a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

Any person who fails to file their annual disclosure is subject to automatic complaint proceedings to determine if the failure to file was willful. If the Commission determines that the person willfully failed to file their disclosure form, the Commission will enter an order recommending that the officer or employee be removed from his or her public office or employment.

Form 1F, Final Statement of Financial Interests

  • Who must file:
    • All independent special district local officers and employees who must file Form 1, Statement of Financial Interests.
  • When to file:
    • Within 60 days of leaving their public office or employment position covering the period between January 1 and their last day of office or employment.

Form 2, Quarterly Client Disclosure (Special Purpose Form)

  • Who must file:
    • Certain independent special district local officers may be required to file it, depending upon their position, businesses, or interests:
      • If they represented a client for a fee or commission before any agency within the political subdivision served by that special district
      • If any of their partners or associates of a professional firm of which they are a member represented a client for a fee or commission before any agency within the political subdivision served by that special district and the special district local officer has knowledge of that representation
  • Where to file:
    • The Supervisor of Elections of the county in which the special district local officer permanently resides
  • When to file:
    • No later than the last day of the calendar quarter following the calendar quarter during which the representation was made

Form 3A, Interest in Competitive Bid for Public Business (Special Purpose Form)

Special district local officers and employees are prohibited from:

  • Doing business with that special district
  • Entering into a conflicting employment or contractual relationship with any other special district local officer, employee, their spouse and/or their children

Certain limited exemptions apply to these prohibitions, such as the following:

  • The business is awarded under a system of sealed competitive bidding; and,
  • The special district local officer has exerted no influence on bid negotiations or specifications; and,
  • Disclosure is made, before or at the time of the submission of the bid, of the special district local officer's or employee's or his or her spouse's or child's interest and the nature of the intended business.

Requirements

  • Who must file:
    • Special district local officers and employees that need to disclose competitive bidding interests
  • Where to file:
    • The Supervisor of Elections of the county in which the special district is located
  • When to file:
    • Before or at the time of the bid submission

Form 4A, Disclosure of Business Transaction, Relationship or Interest (Special Purpose Form)

Special district local officers and employees are prohibited from:

  • Doing business with that special district
  • Entering into a conflicting employment or contractual relationship with any other special district local officer, employee, their spouse and/or their children

Certain limited exemptions apply to these prohibitions, such as the following:

  • Disclosure is made, before the time of the submission of the bid, of the special district local officer's or employee's or his or her spouse's or child's interest and the nature of the intended business.

Requirements

  • Who must file:
    • Special district local officers and employees that need to disclose interest in sole source of supply
  • Where to file:
    • The governing body of the political subdivision
  • When to file:
    • Before the bid submission

Form 8B, Memorandum of Voting Conflict for County, Municipal, and Other Local Public Officers - (Special Purpose Form)

A special district local officer must abstain from voting on the following measures:

  • One that inures to his or her special private gain or loss.
  • One that inures to the special gain or loss of a principal (other than a government agency) by whom he or she is retained.
  • One that could result in special private gain or loss to a relative.
  • One that could result in special private gain or loss to a business associate. Special district local officers of community redevelopment agencies and special district local officers of independent special districts elected on a one-acre, one-vote basis, are not prohibited from voting in that capacity, but still must file Form 8B.
  • For more information, see section 112.3143, Florida Statutes - Voting conflicts

Requirements

  • Who must file:
    • Elected special district local officers must abstain from voting in these situations but may participate in such matters.
    • Appointed special district local officers must disclose the nature of the conflict on the Form 8B before making any attempt to influence the decision. If an appointed special district local officer intends to try to influence the decision before the meeting in which the vote will take place, the special district local officer first must complete this form, which must be immediately provided to the other governing body members of the special district and read publicly at the next meeting.
  • Where to file:
    • With the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting, who must incorporate the form in the minutes, provide a copy to the other members of the special district, and read the form at the next meeting.
    • If the special district local officer does not try to influence the decision except by discussion at the meeting in which the vote will take place, they must disclose orally the nature of the conflict in the measure before participating. The form must be:
      • Completed and filed within 15 days after the vote occurs with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting.
      • Incorporated in the minutes.
      • Copied immediately for the other members of the governing body.
      • Read publicly at the next meeting after the form is filed.

Form 9, Quarterly Gift Disclosure

A "gift" is anything accepted by a person or on that person's behalf, whether directly or indirectly, for that person's benefit, and for which equal or greater consideration is not given within 90 days. Examples of reportable "gifts" include the following:

  • Real property or its use
  • Tangible or intangible personal property or its use
  • Preferential rates or terms on transactions unavailable to others similarly situated
  • Forgiveness of a debt
  • Transportation (unless provided by an agency in relation to officially approved governmental business)
  • Lodging or parking
  • Food or beverage
  • Dues, fees, and tickets
  • Plants and flowers
  • Personal services for which a fee is normally charged
  • Any other goods or services with an attributable value

The definition of "gift" does not include the following:

  • Salary, benefits, services, fees, commissions, gifts, or expenses associated with one's private employment, business, or service as an officer or director of a corporation or organization.
  • Campaign contributions or expenditures pursuant to the election laws.
  • An honorarium or honorarium expense (Use Form 10 - see below).
  • An award, plaque, certificate, etc., given in recognition of public, civic, charitable, or professional service.
  • Honorary membership in a service or fraternal organization.
  • The use of a public facility or public property provided by a governmental agency for a public purpose.
  • Certain gifts from organizations which promote the exchange of ideas or the professional development of governmental officials and employees whose membership is primarily composed of elected or appointed public officials or staff, if the gift is to a member of the organization.
  • Gifts from relatives.
  • Gifts from certain governmental entities (Use Form 10 - see below).
  • Contributions or expenditures by a political party.

Prohibited Gifts include the following:

  • Gifts valued at more than $100 from a vendor, lobbyist or the partner, firm, or principal of a lobbyist.
  • Gifts valued at more than $100 from political committees.

Special district local officers and specified employees may not solicit any gift, including food or beverage, from the following:

  • A political committee.
  • A lobbyist who has lobbied that special district local officer's or specified employee's special district within the past 12 months.
  • A partner, firm, employer, or principal of a lobbyist.
  • A vendor.

A special district local officer or specified employee may accept a gift valued between $25 and $100 from those previously listed. The person giving the gift to the special district local officer or specified employee must report the gift on Commission on Ethics Form 30, Donor's Quarterly Gift Disclosure, and notify the special district local officer that they will disclose the gift as required.

A special district local officer or specified employee may not directly or indirectly accept a gift worth more than $100 from those previously listed. However, they may accept it on behalf of the special district. Then, the special district local officer or specified employee must promptly transfer the gift to the special district.

Water management districts, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, and airport authorities that lobby governmental entities may give a gift worth more than $100 to other people required to file Form 1 (certain state officers, local officers, and state employees - see Form 1 for more information) if they can show a public purpose for giving the gift. The entity giving the gift must provide a statement describing the gift, the date it was given, and its value to the recipient by March 1 of the following year so the recipient can report such gifts on Form 10.

Requirements

  • Who must file:
    • Special district local officers receiving any gift worth more than $100 from someone who is not a relative, a lobbyist (including the partner, firm, or principal), or vendor of the special district.
  • Where to file:
    • Notarize the form and file it with the Commission on Ethics
  • When to file:
    • By the last day of the calendar quarter following the previous calendar quarter during which they received the gift.

Form 10, Annual Disclosure of Gifts from Governmental Entities and Direct Support Organizations and Honorarium Event Related Expenses

Honorarium refers to a payment of money or anything of value, directly or indirectly, as consideration for one or more of the following:
  • Presentation in person, recorded, or broadcast
  • Written material, excluding books published or in publication

An honorarium does not include the following:

  • Ordinary payment or salary related to one's public duties
  • Payment for services not related to the reportable duties of a special district local officer or employee
  • Campaign contributions defined in Chapter 106, Florida Statutes - Campaign Financing
  • Actual and reasonable expenses for transportation, lodging, food, beverages, and event registration fees related to a presentation or to written material (an honorarium event related expense)

Special district local officers and specified employees may not solicit an honorarium related to his or her public office or duties nor knowingly accept an honorarium from the following:

  • A lobbyist who has lobbied the special district local officer's or specified employee's special district within the past 12 months
  • A partner, firm, employer, or principal of that lobbyist
  • A vendor
  • A political committee

Special district local officers and specified employees may accept the payment of actual and reasonable transportation, lodging, food and beverage expenses, and registration fees related to an honorarium event from such persons or entities, if the special district local officer or employee discloses such expenses.

Those that pay the official expenses must provide to the special district local officer or employee an expense report within 60 days after the honorarium event that contains:

  • The name and address of the person providing the expenses
  • A description of the expenses provided each day
  • The total value of the expenses provided for the honorarium event.

The special district local officer or specified employee must report the expenses received during the preceding calendar year on Form 10 as part of their annual financial disclosure and should attach the statement from those paying the expenses.

Requirements

  • Who must file:
    • All special district local officers and specified employees filing Form 1 who received reportable gifts from governmental entities and direct support organizations and/or honorarium event related expenses must use to report them.
  • Where to file:
    • Florida Commission on Ethics.
  • When to file:
    • By July 1 of the year following the calendar year in which the gift or honorarium expense was received.

Form 40, Certification By Trustee of Qualified Blind Trust

  • Who must file:
  • Where to file:
    • Florida Commission on Ethics
  • When to file:
    • Within five business days after qualified blind trust agreement is executed.

Penalties for Code of Ethics Violations

Non-Criminal

Penalties for special district officers and employees:

  • Impeachment
  • Removal or suspension from office or employment
  • Public censure, reprimand, demotion, or salary reduction
  • A civil penalty up to $10,000
  • Restitution of pecuniary benefits they received

Penalties for candidates seeking election to a special district's governing body:

  • Disqualification from being on the ballot
  • Public censure or reprimand
  • A civil penalty up to $10,000

Penalties for former special district local officers and employees:

  • Public censure and reprimand
  • A civil penalty up to $10,000
  • Restitution of pecuniary benefits they received

Felonies Involving Breach of Public Trust and Other Specified Offenses

Any public officer or employee who is convicted in a court of law of a specified felony offense involving their public office or employment is subject to forfeiture of retirement benefits. Some examples of such offenses include, embezzlement or theft of public funds, bribery, impeachable offenses, threatening a public servant, and defrauding the public or the special district.

Violations of Gift Law and/or Honorarium Provisions By a Lobbyist

Violations may result in:

  • A fine up to $5,000
  • A two-year ban from lobbying, or employing someone to lobby, before the agency of the person to whom the gift or honorarium was given

Contact Someone Who Can Answer Questions About Ethics Laws and Disclosures

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