Windermere to join Form 6 litigation

Florida Form 6 requires more detailed financial disclosures from elected officials. More than two dozen municipalities and more than 70 elected officials from across Florida are suing.

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The town of Windermere is joining the Florida Form 6 litigation, as decided at its Tuesday, March 12, Town Council meeting. 

The new form, which was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this year, is facing two lawsuits filed by Weiss Serota Helfman Cole + Bierman, PL.

More than two dozen municipalities and more than 70 elected officials from across Florida, including the town of Windermere, are part of the lawsuits, which allege the law is “highly intrusive” and unconstitutional.

“The issue that comes up here, in my perspective, is I believe some of this is being done to discourage people … and that to me is a threat to the way that we do business,” Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien said. “For us to have to continue to give out additional information; it’s not easy to get all of that information. … At the end of the day, while I am 1000% sure that nobody here has anything to hide, just going through all that effort, it’s just an additional burden to discourage people from running for council. It’s already a difficult position. It’s not a lot of fun all the time. But, we love doing it because we care about our community.”


Form 6 is a full and public financial disclosure filed by county candidates, including commissioners, constitutional officers, school board members and judges. This form is usually filed directly with the Florida Commission on Ethics, unless it is during the year the office is up for election.

In the past, Florida’s ethics laws have required local elected public officials to disclose their primary sources of employment each year. Officials elected to city and town governments filed a Form 1 disclosure, which required them to list assets and liabilities of more than $10,000, as well as sources of income and property holdings. But it did not require candidates to specify dollar amounts.

However, the new legislation’s form requires net worth, assets and liabilities exceeding $1,000, and an itemized breakdown of all sources of income that exceed $1,000. 

More than 100 elected officials have been reported to have stepped down due to the new law, including a previous council member in the town of Windermere.

The first lawsuit was filed Thursday, Feb. 15, in the Leon County Circuit Court.

The complaint, filed in Florida court, states the form violates city officials’ right to privacy under the Florida Constitution. The lawsuit called the added disclosure “an unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of municipal elected officials” and an unnecessary safety risk. It states the airing of personal financial details could make officials targets of robbery, identity theft and extortion.

A second suit, filed in federal court, contends it violates their right to be free of government compelled speech under the U.S. Constitution. The complaint states the added financial disclosure “does not prevent or even ameliorate” conflicts of interest or public corruption and does not increase public confidence in government.

The complaints both were filed against Florida Commission on Ethics members who enforce the law. The complaints argue there are less-restrictive means available to accomplish the “compelling state interest” of evaluating conflicts of interest and deterring corruption. 

Officials who fail to file the form can face a civil penalty of up to $20,000 and potential removal from office following an investigation and public hearing, according to the complaints.

Unlike county and state officials, many city officials, primarily in smaller municipalities, receive little or no pay for their service.


Council members, at the February meeting, opted to have the town attorney draft a resolution to add to the March agenda pertaining to the possibility of joining the litigation. 

Although not in attendance at the March meeting, Council Member Mandy David relayed her full support for the resolution in a letter to the Town Council read by Town Manager Robert Smith. 

“I think it is important we try to protect our council in the future so that it won’t prevent others from serving in our wonderful town,” she wrote.

Council Member Tom Stroup inquired on why the lawsuit is being pursued now when the Form 6 has existed in the past. 

“Supposedly, for the past few years, this is an issue that the governor has thought important for all elected municipal officials to have to do, and, up until this point, it never went through … but it did get high,” Town Attorney Heather Ramos said. 

Stroup said he felt conflicted about the resolution. 

“I think that if I expect it from my county mayor and my city mayor and other elected officials; I am an elected official also,” he said. “I see all the sides.”

“It is a shame,” Ramos said. “I really wish they just would have carved out the folks that were not being paid for their service.”

“I don’t think anyone in government should have to disclose their private information to all …” Council Member Tony Davit said. “We all get training for ethics. We all know what behavior is not accepted. What does financial disclosures have to do with any of that?”

Council Member Andy Williams asked where the encroachment stops unless people push back. 

“You see it from the federal, state, all levels of higher government trying to influence local government affairs by these types of tactics,” Davit said. “We need to push back.”

Davit made a motion to approve the resolution and it passed 3-1, with Stroup dissenting.


Council members also discussed temporary restrooms at Town Hall Square.

“The town manager has received a few requests — I’m saying a few lightly — about the fact that there’s no restroom facilities here at the Town Square park area,” Public Works Director Tonya Elliott-Moore said. “This becomes an issue for those that are out playing basketball or soccer because Town Hall is generally locked during the day when it’s not open for some type of event. So, the town manager asked me to obtain quotes for a portable restroom trailer.”

Elliott-Moore said she reached out and received quotes from three different companies.

The lowest quote at a 12-month cost was from Orange County Potty’s for $42,462. She said the cost includes the company doing cleaning and clearing of the facility.

“I understand the need, and I am frustrated,” O’Brien said. “I have a couple things that I’m a little concerned about. One is where we put this … Are we sure we don’t want to invest in something that (is more permanent)? … If this is the way that we have to go; we have to do something. We’re in a bit of a predicament now … between timeliness and readiness to commit to what we’re going to do for the rehabilitation of Town Hall and securing that funding … I agree that the local businesses should not have to pick up the bathrooms for the town. … All I want to say is do we want to take a little more time and look at a few more options?”

The conversation was tabled so staff can explore other products and bring the findings back to the Town Council in the near future.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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