Saturday, January 06, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Will DeSantis replace dozens of local officials who resigned ahead of a new disclosure law? (USA Today Network)

WHO IS DAVID NORRIS? So "North Palm Beach Village mayor, DAVID NORRIS, a partner in a law firm that bears his name (a sixteen syllable name, including the ampersand), this mewling COHEN NORRIS corporate law firm partner, "resigned in tears because he said as a partner in a law firm that prohibits such disclosures he couldn't stay."  Boo hoo. NORRIS and his fellow South Florida elected officials resigning in panic do "bear watchin,'" as they say in East Tennessee. Do corporations, employers and developers hiring lawyers in Florida have low expectations of the governments they seem to control?  DAVID NORRIS is the second name partner in a corporate law firm with three fancy-bears offices, in North Palm Beach, Wellington and Boca Raton. NORRIS has served on North Palm Beach's governing body since 1997.  The COHEN NORRIS firm website states:

David B. Norris

Born in Greenfield, Indiana; graduated from the University of Florida with a major in accounting in 1980 and a law degree in 1982.  Member of The Florida Bar; United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida; American Bar Association; and the Palm Beach County Bar Association, as well as the Real Property, Probate and Trust, and the Business Law Sections of the American Bar Association, and the Real Property and Business Law Sections of The Florida Bar.  Also, a member of Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund Advisory Board for Palm Beach County and the Attorneys’ Real Property Council of Palm Beach County, Inc.  Previously a member of Attorney-Realtor Committee for Palm Beach County, Client Relation’s Committee and Circuit Arbitration Committee for the Palm Beach County Bar Association.  Past President of the Palm Beach-Martin County Estate Planning Council and Member of Oxford’s Who’s Who.

Mr. Norris practices in the fields of commercial and residential real estate, corporate and partnership, construction, banking and general contract law.

Mr. Norris has served on the Village Council of the Village of North Palm Beach since 1997.  He has also served as the Mayor of the Village of North Palm Beach for 9 terms.  Mr. Norris also serves on the boards for First Tee of the Palm Beaches and Networking to Help Children.

Mr. Norris is recognized as an AV attorney, the highest rating possible from Martindale-Hubbell™.

"Regulatory capture" in South Florida's small towns may include hiring as lawyers or other professionals members of small town boards -- the better for corporate and organized crime to wield influence perhaps?  The number of municipalities in South Florida counties is suggestive of fiefdoms. Whereas St. Johns County has only two municipalities, there are some 104 municipalities in three counties in South Florida. (Broward County has 31 municipalities. Palm Beach County has 39 municipalities. Miami-Dade County has 34 of them.  

The story goes that a kindly, sweet church lady once had a reputation for seeing the good in everyone: she could always say something nice about just about anyone.  So it came to pass that the kikndlhy lady was once tested by her new minister, who asked her  to try to "say something nice about the Devil." The replied, "well, he's no slouch!" 

You've got to hand it to Governor DeSANTIS. He's no slouch. Like a stopped clock, Governor DeSANTIS is sometimes right.  (Give the Devil his due.) More financial disclosure of local elected officials is the law, and rightfully so.  County Commissioners must file Form 6.  So too will City Commissioners.  I was appalled by Nikesha Willams' odd complaint on WJCT News January 5, 2023: she said that said such mandatory public official disclosures invade personal privacy.  Sounds like Trumpery to me  As Thomas Jefferson said, "A public office is a public trust?" From Sarasota Herald Tribune/USA Today Network:

Will DeSantis replace dozens of local officials who resigned ahead of a new disclosure law?

C. A. Bridges
Daytona Beach News Journal, USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida

The Town of Reddick in Florida is currently being run by the town clerk. The entire town council and the mayor have just resigned.

Most of the North Palm Beach Village Council also have resigned, including the mayor, and Eagle Lake barely avoided losing a quorum. Four out of the five St. Pete Beach city council members resigned, as did four of the five McIntosh Town Council members. Dozens of local elected officials across Florida have abruptly left office in the last few weeks.

Why? Because as of Jan. 1, they would have been required to disclose their finances in detail the way state and county officials, including the governor, have had to for years. A change to the Ethics Commission laws last year added city and municipal elected officials to the list of government employees who have to fill out something called Form 6, which requires personal finance disclosure to the dollar.

So the question is, what now? With multiple local governments decimated and leaderless, will Gov. Ron DeSantis step in and fill the empty spots?

No, according to Jeremy Redfern, his official press secretary.

What is Form 6?Here's why so many elected city officials are abruptly resigning across Florida

Will DeSantis appoint replacements for the local government officials who have resigned?

“Our office is aware that in several municipalities, city and town commission members have publicly contemplated resigning their offices before the new year to avoid filing more detailed financial disclosure statements now required by law," Redfern said in an email.

“Under Florida law, each municipality is responsible for providing a mechanism to fill municipal vacancies. Section 166.031, Florida Statutes, specifically provides that "[e]ach municipality shall, by ordinance or charter provision, provide procedures for filling a vacancy in office caused by death, resignation, or removal from office.

“Therefore, each local government is, by law, responsible for addressing these vacancies," he said. "You will have to consult with individual municipalities to learn more about their plans to address this matter.”

What is Form 6 in Florida?

As of Jan. 1, local elected officials will be required to fill out this financial disclosure form.

Form 6, "Full and Public Disclosure of Financial Interests," is one of the formselected officials in Florida must fill out and occasionally renew. It is intended to add transparency to offices that make spending decisions, sometimes up to millions or billions in taxpayer money.

All elected state and county officials, including the governor and lieutenant governor, have been required to fill out Form 6 annually for years, but a change in 2023 added local officials as well. Previously, local government officials had to disclose the sources of their income and business interests, but not specific amounts or percentages.

Officials must reveal their entire net worth, including the dollar amounts of bank accounts, 401(k) plans and other assets. This includes household goods, personal effects, property, cash, stocks, bonds, CDs, business interests, beneficial interests in trusts, any money owed to the official, and investments in assorted accounts including the Florida College Investment Plan.

They must also list any source of income that provided more than $1,000 in the previous calendar year, and liabilities in excess of $1,000 with the name and address of each creditor.

Failure to file can result in removal or suspension from public office or employment and an automatic fine of $25 per day late to a maximum penalty of $1,500. Leaving something off the form may result in a reprimand, demotion, reduction in salary, impeachment, and/or a civil penalty to a maximum of $20,000.

Why are so many elected officials resigning in Florida?

Many see the new requirement as an invasion of privacy and government intrusion they didn't expect when they ran for office. Some ran into conflicts: the North Palm Beach Village mayor, David Norris, resigned in tears because he said as a partner in a law firm that prohibits such disclosures he couldn't stay. Some feared it would be weaponized against them by bad actors.

Others have pointed out the unexpected additional costs for a CPA to help fill out what could be a complicated form, with heavy penalties for missing something, to keep a position that doesn't pay that much and in some cases is unpaid.

"It would also require me to have family heirlooms and antiques to be appraised and announced to the world," Orange City council member William O'Connorwrote in his resignation letter. "Making my personal assets public record puts me and my family at immediate risk from scammers and potential robbers."

There was also concern that requiring full disclosures might frighten candidates away from local elections. Tom Knight, former Sarasota County sheriff and current District 3 candidate, wasn't impressed.

In a letter to the editor for the Herald-Tribune, he said holding officials to the same standard was long due. "They often vote on contracts and zoning issues representing millions, and even billions, of dollars. To those who refuse to fill out the form and plan to resign, I say it’s probably for the best."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Get him outta there for Christ sakes he's nuts.