Financial disclosure forms required by Florida Commission on Ethics
(Editor’s note: This article was corrected on July 20 to identify Jan Thornburg as the city’s senior communications manager, who provided the News Leader the current salary of city commissioners.)
Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody is the only member of that board whose income derives solely from his position, The Sarasota News Leader has learned from a review of the financial disclosure forms that state law requires the city commissioners to file each year.
In response to a News Leader question, city Senior Communications Manager Jan Thornburg reported that the current annual salary for a city commissioner is $29,514.68, based on a formula outlined in Chapter 145.031 of the Florida Statutes.
Although the Florida Commission on Ethics lists the filers of what formally are called “Form 1” financial disclosure reports, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office keeps the actual copies. Therefore, the News Leader obtained the city commissioners’ 2021 reports through a public records request made this week to Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner’s staff.
Each form has a block for the elected official to list all sources of income. In Brody’s case, he wrote “City of Sarasota.” Under the heading Description of the Source’s Principal Business Activity, he added, “City Commission.”
Brody is an attorney who, at one time, worked in the State Attorney’s Office for the 12th Judicial District, which comprises Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. The Florida Bar lists Brody as a “Member in Good Standing,” the News Leader found in searching for his Bar record on July 11. That record says he was admitted to the Bar in May 2012.
A Circuit Court form shows that, on Oct. 16, 2012, Earl Moreland, then the state attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit, appointed Brody an assistant state attorney. In response to a News Leader question, a spokeswoman for the current state attorney for the 12th District — Ed Brodsky — reported that Brody’s last day in that office was April 25, 2016.
Brody ran for an at-large City Commission seat in 2017. He and Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch won the two at-large seats in a second election that year, in May.
While Ahearn-Koch is seeking re-election to the City Commission, Brody is running as a Democrat for the District 2 County Commission seat that Commissioner Christian Ziegler holds. Ziegler chose not to seek another term on that board.
Additionally in his 2021 report, Brody listed two creditors: Carrington Mortgage in Jacksonville and the U.S. Department of Education. With the latter, he indicated that he still is repaying a loan for his education.
In searching the deed and mortgage records maintained by the staff of Karen Rushing, Sarasota County clerk of the Circuit Court and county comptroller, the News Leader also learned that, in November 2014, Brody took out a 30-year mortgage for $117,826 with Carrington Mortgage Services of Santa Ana, Calif.
The Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office says the market value of Brody’s home and the land on which it sits is $175,600 this year.
Brody chose to keep his address private on the financial disclosure form, writing, “protected address.”
In response to a News Leader inquiry about that, City Attorney Robert Fournier wrote in a July 12 email, “I am speculating because I have not discussed with him, but [Section] 119.071(4)(d) [of the Florida Statutes] I believe includes current and former state prosecutors and assistant prosecutors among occupations that have exemption from disclosure of personal information.”
Mayor Eric Arroyo’s financial disclosure form notes three sources of income: his work as an attorney with the Sarasota firm Band, Gates & Dramis; his service as a trustee, which he handles out of his home, the form says; and his City Commission salary.
A December 2021 document in the Clerk of Court’s records, which the News Leaderreviewed, made reference to Arroyo as “Trustee of the Sarasota Rental Ventures Land Trust.”
He lists his home on the form as his only real property; the deed shows that he and his wife paid $399,000 for that parcel in April 2020. The market value of the property this year, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office, is $504,200.
Finally, the only liability Arroyo lists is his mortgage. In January of this year, he and his wife took out a 30-year mortgage of $330,000 with First Centennial Mortgage Corp. of Aurora, Ill., the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s records show. However, on the financial disclosure form, Arroyo identifies the creditor as Wells Fargo.
Commissioner Ahearn-Koch listed only her marketing, public relations and design firm — JAK Consults — as her source of income, noting that its address is the same as that of her Sarasota home.
Her only financial liability is the mortgage on her house, the form also says. In July 2014, she and her husband took out a $125,000 mortgage from Fifth Third Bank, the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s records show. That, too, was a 30-year mortgage, the document points out.
The Property Appraiser’s Office puts the market value of Ahearn-Koch’s home parcel this year at $447,400.
Commissioner Liz Alpert listed her work as an attorney, at her own firm, and Social Security as the sources of her income. Like Ahearn-Koch, she did not include her City Commission salary on the form.
Further, Alpert reported that her only creditor is Bank of America Mortgage in Tampa. The News Leader was unable to find any records regarding that mortgage.
However, the News Leader did learn that, in December 2019, Alpert paid off a $61,000 mortgage on the downtown Sarasota condominium she listed as her home on the financial disclosure form.
Property Appraiser’s Office records show Alpert has owned that condominium since August 2002, when she paid $450,000 for it. The 2022 market value of the property is $491,800, the Property Appraiser’s Office records note.
Finally, Vice Mayor Kyle Scott Battie wrote on his form that he receives income from a consulting firm and from the City of Sarasota. The consulting firm’s address is that of the Kanaya condominium complex standing at 505 S. Orange Ave. in downtown Sarasota.
Battie listed no creditors on his form. The mailing address he listed is that of a single-family home in North Sarasota.
Forms required by Commission on Ethics
The website of the Florida Commission on Ethics shows that Commissioner Ahearn-Koch was the first to file her financial disclosure form this year; the date was May 19.
Both Mayor Arroyo and Commissioner Alpert filed their forms on June 28, while Vice Mayor Battie and Commissioner Brody submitted theirs on June 30.
The forms were due by July 1.
In a June 28 email to the commissioners, City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs wrote, “As a reminder, the law requires Public Officers and Employees as defined in Section 112.3145(1)(a), Florida Statutes to file Form 1 Statement of Financial Interests Disclosures for the calendar year 2021 with the Supervisor of Elections in the county where you permanently reside within 30 days of appointment or employment, and then annually by July 1st of each calendar year.”
Griggs added that the Commission on Ethics could assess a $25 fine for each day that a form was late.
“Further,” she pointed out, with emphasis, “the fines may continue to accrue until the official either files the disclosure form, or the fine reaches $1,500 — whichever comes first. For more information about the ethics laws and the Commission’s responsibilities is available at the Commission’s website, www.ethics.state.fl.us, which contains informative publications, rules, and other information.”