This year’s Florida ethics reform has provided the public unique and easy access to its civil servants’ personal financial holdings.
- Ed Crapo has a net worth of nearly $2.2 million. His assets include a handful of bank accounts and a Micanopy home valued at more than $500,000. Annually, he earns $128,000 as Alachua County’s Property Appraiser.
- Jody Robson, a Dixie County commissioner, owns almost $10,000 in jewelry and guns.
- For $1,500, Stacy Scott, public defender of the 8th judicial circuit, bought an 18-year-old thoroughbred named Fury.
These elected officials, despite their varied interests, share one thing in common: For the first time, their financial disclosures are posted on the Florida Commission on Ethics website. The public no longer needs to request the information from state and county agencies; they can click and scroll through the information online.
“I think the idea behind it is for people to see the financial interest that their public officials may have,” Stacy Scott said. “If you’re in charge of granting contracts, and you’re an official using taxpayer dollars and working with personal financial interests in mind…the public can see that.”
Gov. Rick Scott signed off on the reforms in May.
The disclosure forms were due within five days of July 1. Nearly five months later, the majority of elected judges, officials and certain state employees have filed their information.
There are stragglers, though, who have not disclosed their information.
And since Sept. 1, the state has been levying a $25 fee on them for every day they fail to submit their financial records.
Statewide, more than 350 officials have been hit with fines (Click “View Fines Accrued”) because they failed to submit their information on time. Forty percent have since disclosed their financial forms, but other officials have allowed their fines to balloon up to $400, either out of misunderstanding or negligence.
In total, according to the ethics commission, they owed $119,225 as of Friday.
Seth McBride, of Marion County, currently owes the state $425. But McBride is in a peculiar situation.
McBride said he was once an alternate on the Marion County Zoning Board Commission. It was a strange limbo of being a volunteer and a public official. He only attended five meetings, he said, because he wasn’t needed for the rest.
Now, McBride won’t even be a member of the newest board. He said it’s dissolving with the county’s planning commission, and he wasn’t voted in, meaning he won’t be an elected official anymore.
“So what does that mean?” he asked. “Am I still going to disclose my information?”
McBride admitted that he hadn’t kept up with the filing process.
“It’s my own fault,” he said. “It slips my mind every day.”
In Baker Fire District, which is located in Okaloosa County near the Panhandle, seven-year commissioner Tim Ross has also accrued $425 in fines.
“I don’t have enough to hide,” Ross said. “Nothing like that. Just an oversight. I’m just like everybody else, I work paycheck to paycheck.”
Ross said he was also late in filing his information last year. As of Friday, his fine, too, remained unpaid.
According to the Florida Commission on Ethics website, Randall Parrish, of the Union County School Board, has not disclosed his financial information; neither has Robert Rankin, of the Gilchrist County School Board.
Connie Sanchez, Gilchrist County’s Supervisor of Elections, said officials should be aware of due dates.
“When you become elected, you’re basically an open book,” Sanchez said. “It’s just like now you’re behind the glass wall. You’ve got to make everything transparent for people to see, which is a good thing. You don’t put doubt in the voter’s mind.”