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Town Council has $10,000 option to join state, federal lawsuits against Form 6

Posted 2/22/24

ORANGE PARK – Municipalities across the state limped into the new year after a wave of resignation forms were tendered statewide from elected officials in local governments. The resignations came …

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Town Council has $10,000 option to join state, federal lawsuits against Form 6


Posted

ORANGE PARK – Municipalities across the state limped into the new year after a wave of resignation forms were tendered statewide from elected officials in local governments.

The resignations came ahead of Form 6, a new law that went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year. Clay County was not immune.

From Orange Park, Vice Mayor Susana Thompson and Councilman Daniel Cobreiro stepped down from Town Council on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27, respectively.

While Cobreiro directly cited Form 6 specifically in his resignation letter. Thompson cited personal reasons for her departure.

Form 6 requires local elected councils and mayors to detail net worth, assets such as bank balances and vehicles, liabilities like loans and credit card balances, and any income sources exceeding $1,000.

As a result, more than 100 Florida mayors, vice mayors and municipal council members resigned rather than subject themselves to the disclosure requirements.

During last Tuesday’s town council meeting, Town Attorney Jody Brooks informed the dais of a state and federal lawsuit challenging the new law.

"Last week on Thursday, a lawsuit was filed both in the federal court and in the state court on behalf of 26 municipalities and 74 municipal elected officials," Brooks said.

She said the federal court case is challenging Form 6 for violating the First Amendment, and the state court case is challenging Form 6 for violating privacy.

Previously, elected municipal officials were only required to fill out Form 1, which did not require them to list their net worth or the exact values of their personal property, except for properties valued at more than $10,000.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the (lawsuit) moves through the courts,” she said.

The town attorney clarified that council members would still have to fill out Form 6 until the courts rule on the case.

“Everyone will still have to fill out the Form 6, unless you are party to the litigation. Then, there might be an opportunity to stay the requirement to fill out the form,” Brooks said.

A law firm leads the two lawsuits in Boca Raton, Weiss Serota Helfman Cole + Bierman. According to the law firm, a $10,000 flat fee is required to participate in the legal challenge.

“I don’t know if there is a big benefit for the $10,000 to get involved at this point. It doesn’t unwind anything that has happened as far as the resignation of our board member (Cobreiro) specifically to Form 6,” Brooks said.

The attorney speculated if the litigation was successful, Form 1 would return. That form requires public officials to disclose income of more than $2,500 from a single source and real property of $10,000 or more.

After the town council meeting, Mayor Randy Anderson said he would not participate in the litigation. 

"I will not support this," Anderson said. 

The council meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month at Town Hall. The next meeting will be on March 5.