TAMPA BAY, Florida - Following a 10 News story on Florida's No. 1 national ranking for corruption, the watchdog group Integrity Florida has released its full report on Florida's ethics oversight problems.
The "Corruption Risk Report: Florida's Ethics Laws" identifies nearly 800 federal corruption convictions in Florida from 2000-2010. In 2012, Forbes magazine named corruption one of its factors when it placed Miami, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale among its "Most Miserable Cities."
According to Integrity Florida, Florida also received a failing grade for ethics enforcement agencies on the Florida Corruption Risk Report Card released in 2012 by State Integrity Investigation.
Intergrity Florida, a non-partisan group, made several recommendations that would "advance government ethics in Florida and the public's overall confidence in state and local government if adopted by the Florida Legislature":
- Self-initiate investigations: As the state ethics law enforcement agency, the Florida Commission on Ethics should be granted the authority to begin its own investigations.
- Launch a report corruption hotline: Report corruption hotline to be managed either by the Florida Attorney General or the Florida Commission on Ethics.
- Expand the ethics code to follow the money: Appropriate aspects of Florida's state ethics code should apply to all who touch public money, including vendors.
- Require top officials to disclose major transactions: Require all cabinet officials, state legislators, state agency heads and local elected officials to disclose details of all major financial transactions over $1,000 within the previous year, including stock trades, property transactions and changes in business ownership.
- Create an online filing system: Financial disclosure forms should be filed electronically and made publicly available online in a searchable, updatable and downloadable format.
The group also made recommendations to the Florida Legislature, that has resisted any ethics reforms in recent years:
- Raise the standard for awarding attorney's fees against complainants.
- Change the burden of proving a violation from "clear and convincing evidence" to a "preponderance of the evidence".
- Require ethics training for public officials, government vendors and lobbyists.
- Increase penalties for ethics law violations.
- Improve collections process for fines owed due to ethics law violations.
- Post all core Ethics Commission documents into an online, searchable database.
- Build an online, searchable database of financial disclosure information.
- Require annual audit of a random sample of financial disclosure forms.
While Florida leaders may have neglected the ethics reform issue, you can report public corruption to the FBI at 1-888-722-1225.
Details regarding the various types of public corruption investigated by the FBI can be found online here.
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