National attention is focusing on the Florida State House District 72 special election. Political pundits everywhere are looking for signs of a coming “blue wave” in November’s mid-terms. Democratic candidate Margaret Good has been giving her opponents Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall a run for their money, with the difference between Good and Buchanan being less than the margin of error in a recent poll.
In a story on this website yesterday we examined the complicated finances behind James Buchanan’s September 17, 2017 Full and Public Disclosure of Financial Interests form. But Margaret Good’s filing also deserves some scrutiny (and is available for for public viewing via the Florida Department of State website).
In his original submission, James Buchanan listed the two companies he owes mortgages to – Jamatt Properties LLC and Orange Park LLC. Margaret Good also owes two mortgages to creditors worth over $400,000 in total, but there is no information on her disclosure form to say who she owes them to.
Margaret Good’s unknown creditors
In the instructions for Part C of the Full and Public Disclosure of Financial Interests form candidates are required to file asks them to list the name and address of each creditor to whom they owe more than $1,000. The reason for this disclosure is pretty straightforward – if you are going to be a candidate for public office voters would like to know who you owe money to.
In the actual Part C Margaret Good refers the reader to Exhibit A (an attachment). It is not clear why, but perhaps it is because the space provided on the form is very small.
At the bottom of Exhibit A, Margaret Good lists two mortgages for houses at 5112 Oakmont Place, and 217 NE 11th Ave (and a car loan). Helpfully, she also lists the values of these two bits of real estate at the top of Exhibit A.
Inexplicably, there is no further information on these liabilities. At least, none available to the public on the Florida Department of State website. Unlike James Buchanan, who needed to file an amended financial disclosure form, Margaret Good only filed a single form.
We know Margaret Good owes a total of $494,965 (no small amount of money) across all three liabilities, but not who she owes them to. As shown above in the Part C instructions, candidates are asked to provide the name and address of each creditor. That information appears to be missing.
An oversight, but who’s oversight?
It seems a bit far-fetched to think the missing creditor information is anything other than a simple oversight. It is possible that Margaret Good included the names and addresses in some sort of Exhibit B that the Florida Secretary of State failed to include in the online file (although this seems unlikely as only Exhibit A is referred to in the main body of the form).
There is a quarterly statement from Mutual of America attached to Margaret Good’s form following Exhibit A, but it only has $1,302.60 listed in its closing balance and does not appear to be at all relevant to Part C. Perhaps this was included instead of the creditor names and addresses in a paperwork mix-up at the Florida Secretary of State’s office?
Or, perhaps Margaret Good, or her agent, just got a bit confused about the requirements and included the address of the property (not asked for) instead of the name and address of the creditor (which is asked for).
The creditors are most likely normal local banks – the same sorts of places most Sarasota voters get their own mortgages from. But as we have seen with James Buchanan’s disclosure form, sometimes mortgages are owed to privately owned LLCs.
It may seem like a technicality, but if a candidate owing nearly half a million dollars to various creditors wants the trust of the voters, it seems reasonable for her to disclose who those debts are owed to.
“True, accurate and complete”
Wherever the missing information from Part C is, the voters of Sarasota deserve for it to be made public. If there was in fact a paperwork mix-up, uploading the correct version should be a simple task.
If the error was Margaret Good’s, or someone working on her behalf, she should find a way to make the information public. She signed an oath that the form she was submitting was “true, accurate, and complete.” If it is not complete, she should complete it.
Margaret Good is a successful and award-winning Sarasota attorney. We also know from her financial disclosure form that she was paid $111,024.96 by her law firm in 2016, and no doubt she earned every penny. So it would be especially surprising if she, or an agent on her behalf, made a basic error in a relatively simple form. Especially as that form, filed in the early stages of the campaign, is one of the first public interactions between a candidate and the voters.