Under Florida law, public servants have to submit financial disclosure forms every year. And every year, there are elected and appointed officials who blow deadlines and ignore mounting late fees to file them.
It’s gotten this bad: The state ethics commission has hired debt collectors to chase $487,549.96 in late fees that have accumulated, in some cases, for more than a decade.
“I think it reflects poorly on the people who have been fined for not complying with the law,” said Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida, a nonprofit government watchdog.
The two-page disclosures — which list net worth, sources of income, real estate holdings and debts — have been the repeated source of trouble or controversy for politicians over the years.
Last election cycle, for instance, Gov. Rick Scott was sued by an opponent who claimed the governor’s disclosures hid $200 million in assets. For not listing interest he made on a loan to an infamous Ponzi schemer, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez faces a $1,500 fine over his financial disclosure. And in a notorious Miami-Dade case that ended with a federal criminal trial, financial disclosures recently helped unravel ringer candidate Justin Sternad’s run for congress.