WFSU News Team
Fri June 15, 2012
Ethics Commission Wants More Authority to Enforce Laws
Reccently, the government watch dog group, Integrity Florida, named Florida number one for government corruption. The group’s executive director, Dan Krassner, says the organization looked at a number of things when making that ranking.
"An entity called State Integrity Investigation, a separate group from Integrity Florida, released a Florida Corruption Risk report card. On that report card, they gave our state a failing grade for ethics enforcement agencies," Krassner said.
Krassner said Integrity Florida also considered things like the state being number one in the nation for federal corruption arrests. He said its time to take steps to crack down on corruption in Florida.
“And thankfully we have a governor who ran on ethics reform. On his very first day in office, Governor Scott pledged to pursue ethics reform, to implement recommendations from past reports," Krassner said. "We’ve had three senior level meeting with the Scott administration and we’re hopefully that as a result of those meetings that 2013 will be the year that ethics reform gets accomplished.”
But members of the Florida Commission on Ethics seem more hesitant, with members like Commission Morgan Bentley saying the group should move forward with "baby steps."
The commission creates a wish list each year of measures that would give the commission more authority, but those measures often doesn’t get much traction once the legislative session starts. And that difficulty leaves commission members searching for ways to get their proposals passed through the legislature.
"Of course there’s an old saying it’s better to shoot for the moon and hit the barn than shoot for the barn and blow your foot off. So we don’t include any of them in there we may not have nothing," Commissioner Matthew Carlucci said.
Commissioners considered a number of measures, like being able self-initiate investigations into ethics complaints, which was one of their priorities last year, and one of the suggestions Integrity Florida made. But the panel decided to focus their efforts on fines.
The group wants to increase fines penalties and voted against writing off old fines even though a four-year statute of limitations has expired. Commission members say they're hoping for the power to pursue those fines by placing liens on real estate owned by those who don't pay. Many of those who owe fees are members of a public office.