People have a lot of opinions about our quaint little corner of the country, but there's one thing that's above dispute: Florida never defies expectations.
So when you hear that a report was released yesterday laying out state-level statistics about public corruption, which state would you expect to be at the top (and don't cheat by looking at the headline)? Why, yes, it was Florida. How did you guess?
According to a study from Integrity Florida, the state had 781 public corruption convictions between 2000 and 2010 -- which makes Florida tops in the nation, with the additional distinction of being one of only two states (and Puerto Rico) to net more than 100 convictions in a single year. This, less than three months after a "state integrity scorecard
" gave Florida a grade about as lousy as its FCAT scores.
This report, written by longtime Florida politico Dan Krassner and former Common Cause of Florida head Ben Wilcox, also makes numerous recommendations to the state, which rather conveniently has its Commission on Ethics convening June 15. Among the suggestions are an online financial disclosure database, a comprehensive ethics code for "all who touch public money," and a corruption hotline. There are no recommendations in the report for finding people who could bear to sit on the phone all day and listen to corruption theories.
I called both of them to talk about the report, but I'm assuming they're inundated by outlets across the country doing their Oh, Florida stories. We'll update if they call back.
Integrity Florida looked for models of successful ethics reform initiatives, and the best model we found so far in Florida was in Palm Beach County, where in 2010 a diverse coalition including the tea party, the League of Women Voters, Democrats and Republicans came together, along with the business community, to pass a series of ethics reforms. The leader of that initiative in Palm Beach County was Marty Rogol, and Marty was the first person I called and asked if their successful model could be replicated in other counties or statewide.
Marty agreed to serve on our board of directors, and helped us see the value in a diverse board of directors, and taking all the partisanship out of the room.
And here's the report itself: