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Dan Krassner
Executive Director, Integrity Florida
Statewide Momentum Growing for Ethics Reform

Floridians committed to rooting out corruption in government are building momentum for a statewide movement for ethics reform. Integrity Florida has been honored to meet and engage citizen watchdogs, journalists, tea party groups, League of Women Voters chapters, local chambers of commerce, retiree groups and other civic groups from Pensacola to Miami in this effort.

One of our board members, Marty Rogol, led the Palm Beach County ethics reform initiative in 2010, after Palm Beach saw four county commissioners go to prison and earn Time magazine's dubious distinction as the most corrupt county in Florida. 

As chairman of Leadership Palm Beach County, Rogol brought together a diverse coalition of individuals of all partisan viewpoints to support ethics reform. Palm Beach voters overwhelmingly passed ballot measures that create a local ethics commission with the power to self-start investigations, an independent inspector general with secure funding and an ethics code for public officials that is stronger than the state’s. The National Association of Counties recently recognized Palm Beach County with an award for its government ethics program. 

Integrity Florida is working to replicate the Palm Beach reform model in other communities and is recommending similar reform measures to the governor and state legislators.

Did you know that Florida led the nation in federal public-corruption convictions from 2000-2010?  Since 1976, Florida’s federal courts have convicted nearly 1,800 individuals for public corruption, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.  That's an average of 49 convictions a year, or about one a week for 35 years. Forbes magazine cites public corruption as a reason why several Florida cities appear on its list of America’s Most Miserable Cities.  A recent report by State Integrity Investigation gave Florida an overall C-minus for corruption risk and failing marks for ethics enforcement agencies.

The 2013 legislative session is shaping up to be one where Florida has the potential to go from an ‘F’ grade for ethics enforcement to an ‘A’ grade.  Florida will be on track for an ‘A’ grade if our state legislators give ethics enforcement officers the authority to initiate investigations, incorporate a corruption hotline, increase penalties and give the Ethics Commission more tools for the enforcement of fines.

Integrity Florida is working to address Florida’s corruption problem by publishing research reports that are getting results.  Our first report exposed a secretive, self-dealing government agency that has committed nearly $2 billion of tax dollars without accountability for results.  The second provided a roadmap for ethics reform that the Florida Commission on Ethics largely adopted as their 2013 legislative agenda. And legislators are backing ethics reform bills based on Integrity Florida's research recommendations. 

In addition to publishing reports, Integrity Florida has convened coalitions across the state dedicated to passing local government ethics policies. These grassroots coalitions cross partisan boundaries to achieve local reform victories.

Our vision is a Florida with the most open, ethical, responsive and accountable government in the world.  We want to make sure that public servants are doing the public's business, not gaining privately based on their position.  The coalition of Floridians continuing to vocalize their support for ethics reform has made it clear to the governor, state legislature and local governments that reducing corruption at all levels is a top priority.

Incoming State Senate President Don Gaetz, State Rep. Charles McBurney and other lawmakers are prioritizing ethics reform legislation for the coming session.  Integrity Florida applauds the priority attention being given to ethics reform measures by our state leaders.

Dan Krassner is executive director of Integrity Florida, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption.

Editor’s note: Florida Voices editor Rosemary Goudreau is on the board of Integrity Florida.

Published Monday, October 01, 2012

by Dr. Radut.