JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida leaders could soon be facing more oversight. For years, the state's Commission on Ethics has had limited power in enforcing the fines and penalties it imposed. There are proposed changes could impact politicians accused of wrongdoing.
Nearly $1 million worth of ethics fines have expired because the Florida Commission on Ethics did not have the power to collect.
"They didn't have to worry about paying the fine because all they had to do was wait the four-year statute of limitations out, and they're off the hook, because there's no enforcement mechanism," said Florida Commission on Ethics Member Matt Carlucci.
Carlucci became a member of the Ethics Commission last spring. When he first started, he could not believe this list of people who were allowed to simply walk away from their penalties and fines.
"Yes, I was surprised. And when I was appointed to the Commission, I began to do my homework and read up on what the Commission was doing and I kept stumbling on these stories of this fine enforcement issue," he said.
Changes are part of a new state bill lawmakers are introducing this year, Carlucci said.
"So if they don't pay, a lien can be filed against real property or personal property, thereby guaranteeing at some point the fine would be paid."
The man introducing the legislation is State Representative Charles McBurney.
"Primarily what this legislation does is it tries to put teeth in the Ethics Commissions rulings. To actually treat their ruling, much the same way as we treat a civil judgment."
The bill would also allow other government offices to refer ethics complaints directly to the Commission, and it would not allow state officials to vote or decide on issues that would present a conflict of interest.
"State appointed officials now do not have to file a conflict of interest, even if they have one. Where maybe they stand to gain on something they would be voting for," Carlucci said.
First Coast News will continue to follow the progress of the bill.
First Coast News