Feb 10, 2015

Code of Ethics Requirement for Municipal Officers

:::by Christopher Ryan:::

Like all other states, Florida has a Code of Ethics and a commission designated to maintain the integrity of its elected and appointed officials. The Florida Commission on Ethics maintains a database of standards, press releases, forms, and other publications to ease compliance—provided the appropriate training is observed when new rules are created.

For some time, Constitutional officers (generally holding state- and county-wide offices) have been required to take a minimum of four hours of ethics training each year. Under a newly enacted provision of the Code of Ethics effective in 2015, this education is now mandatory for every elected municipal officer as well. The Commission strongly urges newly elected officials to complete the required training as close to the date that they take office as possible. This training is required to include the following subjects: (1) Article II, Section 8 of the Florida Constitution; (2) the Code of Ethics (Part III, Chapter 112, Florida Statutes); (3) Public Records; and (4) Public Meetings (Sunshine Law).

As the Commission does not keep track of Constitutional officers and elected municipal officers’ completed hours, the onus is on each officer to report completed training via the appropriate forms. “Beginning with the financial disclosure forms that are due July 1, 2015, there will be a check box on the Form 6 for Constitutional Officers to certify that they have completed the required training in 2014. Elected municipal filers will not see the check box on the Form 1 until the 2015 form year, which will be due July 1, 2016.”

Officials may choose from a variety of training sources, from online videos (links available at www.ethics.state.fl.us/ethics/training.html, providing informative lectures on financial disclosure laws, gift laws, voting conflicts, and other sources of recent ethical decisions), to in-person live training sessions. One such session designed for Lake County municipal officials will be held on March 13 at Lake Receptions. The training event will include (1) two hours of Florida Ethics Law (Chapter 112, Florida Statutes); (2) one hour of Open Meetings (Chapter 286, Florida Statutes); and (3) one hour of Open Records (Chapter 119, Florida Statutes). The event will include a buffet luncheon sponsored by the Florida League of Cities and is scheduled to run from 9:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. For interested parties, reservations via completed form are due to LakeLeague1@comcast.net by February 12.