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Bill Summary Details

Government Integrity (Watch)

SB 1538 (Gruters) and CS/CS/HB 1111 (Tomkow) create the Florida Integrity Office and the position of Florida Integrity Officer within the Office of the Auditor General. The bills authorize the integrity officer to investigate complaints alleging waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct or gross mismanagement (as defined in the bills) in connection with the expenditure of public funds within and by state and local government. The bills authorize the integrity officer to refer a matter to the auditor general, the appropriate law enforcement agency, the chief financial officer, the Office of the Chief Inspector General or the appropriate agency inspector general. The bills direct the auditor general and the integrity officer to conduct random audits and inspections of appropriations projects appropriated in the prior year. The bills authorize the auditor general and the Florida integrity officer to investigate or audit the activities of any political subdivision, unit of local authority or local council or commission. The bills amend the definition for “abuse” and define “misconduct” relating to audits by the auditor general. The bills define “fraud,” “waste,” “abuse” and “misconduct” and provide procedures for the Inspector General to report on activities by public officials or agencies to the Florida integrity officer. The bills impose personal liability for repayment of funds upon persons or officials responsible for determinations of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement or misconduct in government. The bills authorize the chief financial officer to commence investigations based on complaints or referral from any source. The bills require reporting from agency inspectors general on savings or recovery of public funds resulting from reports under the state Whistleblower Act. The bills remove “gross mismanagement” from the definitions of mismanagement in the state Whistleblower Act and specify conditions for whistleblower awards. The bills require each public agency contract for services entered or amended after July 2020 to authorize the public agency to inspect specified records of the contractor. The bills prohibit the use of state or local incentive funds to be paid to a state contractor or subcontractor for services provided or expenditures incurred pursuant to a state contract. CS/CS/HB 1111 was amended to include the language from CS/CS/SB 1270 (see bill above) and also creates a new statute establishing standards for the fiduciary duty of care for appointed public officers and executive officers of specified governmental entities. “Appointed public official” is defined to include “state officers” as well as “local officers” such as appointed members of the governing body of a municipality; a board authorized to enforce local code provisions; a board having the power to recommend, create or modify land planning or zoning (but not citizen advisory committees); and community redevelopment boards. “Executive officer” is defined as the chief executive officer of a governmental entity. The bill provides that each appointed public official and executive officer has a fiduciary duty of care to the governmental entity served and has a duty to act in accordance with laws and terms governing the office or employment, act with the care and competence normally exercised by reasonably prudent persons in similar corporate positions, act only within the scope of authority and refrain from conduct likely to damage the economic interests of the governmental entity. Further, such persons must become reasonably informed in connection with any decision-making function and keep reasonably informed concerning the performance of a governmental entity’s officers, agents and employees. The bill imposes training requirements on appointed public officers and executive officers that require completion of at least five hours of board governance training per term served. The bill requires the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to approve a web-based training program or publish a list of approved training providers. The bill specifies the minimum content of such training programs, including board governance best practices and fiduciary duty of care and liabilities imposed by the new law. The bill provides that governmental entities with annual revenues of less than $300,000 may have governance training provided by in-house counsel of the governmental entity. Governmental entities whose annual revenues are less than $100,000 and appointed officials who hold elected office in another capacity are exempt from the training requirement. The bill provides that all legal counsel employed by a governmental entity must represent the legal interest and position of the governing body of the governmental entity and not the interest of any individual or employee of the governmental entity, unless such representation is directed by the governmental entity. The House bills are on Special Order Calendar awaiting action by that body while the Senate bill has not been heard yet. (O’Hara)