NAPLES _ Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann knows a few things about financial disclosure for public officials like himself.
After all, Mann was a state legislator when the laws requiring constitutional officers were put into effect.
"At first, we heard it was an invasion of privacy, that we shouldn't make them make disclosures, that it would discourage more citizens from running for office," he said. "The challenge was filed years ago. But it has become part of the political landscape."
State law requires public officials like county commissioners, School Board members and sheriffs to report their assets and liabilities to the Florida Commission on Ethics by July 1, with fines accumulating for those officials for every day the form isn't filed after Sept. 1. The reports reflect 2010 assets and liabilities.
"The disclosure process serves to remind officials of their obligation to put the public interest above personal considerations," a 2011 report by the Florida Commission on Ethics said. "It also helps citizens to monitor the considerations of those who spend their tax dollars and participate in public policy decisions or administration."
This is the first of three days of reports on the financial disclosure forms filed by Southwest Florida public officials.
Tuesday: Constitutional officers.
Wednesday: City Council members.
Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall said that's a good thing.
"When you elect someone to office, you want to know where they are deriving their income from. The public has a right to know. It's about transparency," she said.
A review of the financial forms filed with the state yielded some interesting discoveries, including School Board members and commissioners seeming to each make different salaries for the same job.
Lee County School Board members made $38,192 last year, according to the Florida Department of Education. But what the state says they are supposed to make and what they do make are different for several School Board members.
In the most extreme case, Lee School Board member Don Armstrong's salary was reported as being about $33,000 less than his fellow board members.
Armstrong, who said he earned $4,495 as a board member, admitted that he made an error on his forms.
"I do make the same as everyone else," he said. "Point blank, I screwed up."
Sarahlynn Tucker, a representative with the Florida Commission on Ethics, said in an email that the organization doesn't audit the forms. However, if someone reports Armstrong, his failure to fully disclose his information "constitutes grounds for and may be punished by one or more of the following: disqualification from being on the ballot, impeachment, removal or suspension from office or employment, demotion, reduction in salary, reprimand, or a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000," under Florida law.
Armstrong said he has no problem that people know what he's worth.
"I have nothing to hide," he said. "You run for this job to represent the people and you have to realize your life is going to become a little fish bowl. If you didn't want this part of the job, you shouldn't have run for the position."
Armstrong isn't the only School Board member listing a board salary that differs. Lee School Board member Jeanne Dozier said she made $30,451.08 in salary last year, about $7,500 less than her fellow board members.
Dozier said that was just an error.
"I actually have filed an abbreviated form. That was a typo. I gave all figures except my salary (to someone who filled the form out for her)," she said. "She got that number. I have to take responsibility for it because I just looked at it and signed it. I filed an abbreviated form (which corrects it)."
The anomalies didn't just extend to Lee School Board members.
Collier County Commissioner Georgia Hiller filed papers with the state that said her salary was $6,672, far less than the $75,000 her fellow commissioners make.
Hiller, who filed her forms for income she made through Dec. 31, 2010, said that number reflects her salary from the time she took office in fall 2010 to the end of the year.
"In 2011, I will report the full $75,000," she said.
Commissioner Tom Henning's salary was reported at $69,476, which is less than the $75,000 commission salary. Henning said he got his salary information from his W-2 and reported it. Commissioner Jim Coletta, who reported his salary at $62,654, said his salary is lower than the $75,000 public salary because he defers some of the salary to a retirement account.
But, despite a few glitches, the officials contacted by the Daily News said they understand the public's need to know where their interests lie and said they don't have a problem divulging their assets and liabilities — even though they wouldn't if they weren't in the public eye.
"Some of the stuff, it's personal, but you lose your personal life when you go into public office. It's one of those sacrifices that you make when you choose to run for office," Collier School Board Chairwoman Julie Sprague said. "It's part of the obligation that you sign on to when you decide to become an elected officer. If I had my choice, I would not reveal this publicly. But I don't have anything to hide, either."
__ Connect with Katherine Albers at www.naplesnews.com/staff/katherine-albers/.