By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
When former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Wells retired in March 2009 he did not file final financial disclosure forms required by state law and judicial canons.
He belatedly did so this week after Broward Bulldog inquired about that omission.
Supreme Court justices, like lower court judges and other officeholders, must annually disclose for public inspection their sources of income, business interests, assets, liabilities and net worth.
Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, the ethical standard for the state’s judges, says judges “shall file a final disclosure statement within 60 days after leaving office.”
Failure to disclose “constitutes grounds” for the imposition of steep penalties – impeachment, reprimand or a civil penalty up to $10,000, according to disclosure forms used by state officeholders.
Wells was supposed to have filed financial and gift disclosure forms last year for both 2008 and 2009, but did not. Florida law requires state officeholders to file annual disclosure reports for the preceding year by July 1.
Last week, Wells told Broward Bulldog he filed those disclosure forms last year. He later called back to say he’d been mistaken.
“I should’ve filed something. I will go ahead and submit it,” he said last week.
Wells retired March 2, 2009 and went to work as an attorney for the large Orlando-based law firm GrayRobinson.
Weeks earlier, he’d cast the deciding vote to approve a controversial ballot petition sought by Floridians for Smarter Growth, a political action committee the firm was aligned with.
Wells told Broward Bulldog he may have accepted the GrayRobinson job in January 2009 while he and his fellow justices were deciding whether to conduct a rehearing sought by Smarter Growth’s political opponents at Florida Hometown Democracy. You can read Wednesday’s story about it here.
Wells filed his final financial disclosure report covering 2008 and his time in office in 2009 with the state ethics commission on Tuesday.
His reported income during that approximately 14-month period was $185,594 in salary, $30,327 from Social Security, nearly $15,000 in dividends and interest and $95,601 from the sale of SunTrust stock.
Justices are paid $161,200 annually.
His assets included a $1.5 million home in Central Florida, $2.8 million in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs and cash. His sole liability was a $42,000 mortgage.
His net worth as of March 2009 was $4.2 million – a $457,000 decline since his previous report in 2007.
The drop was the latest in a string of declines Wells has suffered. Between 2005 and 2009, his net worth fell more than $920,000.