Ethics in Government
Florida Ethics Law Requirements for Public Officers and Employees
In Florida, public officers and public employees, both state and local, are agents of the people and hold their positions for the benefit of the public. To ensure that a public office remains a public trust, Florida has enshrined the existence of ethical standards applicable to public officers, public employees, and candidates for public office, within Art. II, s. 8, of the Fla. Const., commonly referred to as the “Ethics in Government” or “Sunshine Amendment.”
To secure and sustain the public’s trust against abuse, the Sunshine Amendment provides for the existence of an independent commission, the Florida Commission on Ethics to conduct investigations of ethics complaints and make public reports on all complaints concerning breach of the public trust. The Sunshine Amendment further provides for the existence of a “code of ethics for all state employees and nonjudicial officers prohibiting conflict between public duty and private interests” as prescribed by law. Art. II, s. 8(g), Fla. Const. Pursuant to this requirement the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees (“Code of Ethics”) has been adopted and is found in Part III, of Ch. 112, Florida Statutes (“F.S.”). The Code of Ethics contains statutory restrictions designed to ensure that public officials conduct themselves independently and impartially, not using their offices for private gain.
Who is subject to the Code of Ethics in Florida?
- ALL public officers on both the state and local levels of government in Florida
- ALL public employees (state and local)
- Local government attorneys
- Candidates for public office
- Miscellaneous others
What conduct does the Code of Ethics address?
The Code of Ethics (Part III, Ch. 112, F.S.) and the Sunshine Amendment (Art. II, s. 8, Fla. Const.) contain legal restrictions and reporting requirements which primarily fall within four categories:
- Laws pertaining to prohibited or restricted conduct (including the misuse of public position, conflicts of interest, nepotism, voting conflicts, prohibited disproportionate benefit, and more)
- Laws pertaining to bribes, gifts, honoraria, and expenditures
- Government transparency laws involving financial disclosure
- Laws pertaining to executive branch lobbying activity
What penalties exist for violations of the Code of Ethics?
The penalty provisions of the Code of Ethics, s. 112.317, F.S., provide an array of non-criminal penalties for current and former public officers and public employees, candidates for public office, and others who have been found to have violated the Code of Ethics and/or Sunshine Amendment including:
- Removal/suspension from public office or employment
- Public censure and reprimand
- Forfeiture of up to one third of public salary
- Restitution of pecuniary benefits received because of the violation
- Civil penalties of $20,000 per violation
Florida Ethics Resources
Florida Ethics Law Handbook
Ethics Training Products & Services
Florida Statutes, Constitution, and Laws
The Florida Statutes, constitution and Laws can be found on the “Online Sunshine” site, the official site of the Florida Legislature:
Florida Department of State’s Administrative Code and Regulations
- The Florida Administrative Code contains the rules that have been developed by state agencies in order to implement state laws.
- Website: https://www.flrules.org/
Florida Commission on Ethics
- The Florida Commission on Ethics is the constitutionally created independent agency tasked with interpreting and enforcing the state’s ethics laws. The Commission’s website is located at: www.ethics.state.fl.us.
- The Commission maintains a free, searchable database of more than 2,000 advisory opinions issued by the agency to public officials and public employees and interpreting Florida’s ethics laws and related constitutional provisions in different factual scenarios which is available under the “Research” tab by selecting the “Search” option on the Commission’s homepage located at: www.ethics.state.fl.us.
- The “Electronic Financial Disclosure Management System” launched by the Commission in 2022 to provide for the electronic creation and filing of financial disclosure and to make disclosure filings available in a searchable format that is accessible to the public may be accessed at: www.disclosure.floridaethics.gov
- For additional information regarding Florida’s ethics law requirements the Florida Commission on Ethics may be reached via telephone at: