Special District Accountability Program:
Resolving Problems with Special Districts
Since special districts are units of local government, just like county and municipal government - not state or local programs overseen by another level of government - the state has no authority to direct them take any particular actions regarding the citizens they serve.
Therefore, when problems arise, the best approach might be to consider how you would handle a similar problem with your city or county government.
Depending on the circumstances, citizens often have success by doing one or more of the following:
- Attend the special district's regular meetings and discuss the issue with the governing body members
- Discuss the issue with the special district's registered agent or manager
- Put the complaint in writing and request a written response from the special district's governing body
- Contact the special district's auditing firm to find out if it is aware of the situation
- Contact local and state citizen groups, such as tax watchdog groups
- Initiate grass-roots efforts. Instead of bringing only problems and complaints to a special district's governing body, organize with your neighbors who share similar concerns, research the issue, and arrive at several alternative solutions or compromises to present to the governing body for consideration. If applicable, include suggestions on how to finance the proposed solution or compromise.
- Seek the advice of a private attorney
- Gain a better understanding of issues that involve spending district funds and undertaking activities. Keep in mind that the special district’s charter requires the special district to undertake certain activities to ensure the district complies with its purposes, functions, and missions.
- Since special districts have explicit authority - not implied authority - ask the special district to show you the specific laws and policies that grant it authority to do something.
- Since special districts can only spend money on items in its adopted budget, ask the special district to show you where in the adopted budget the funding was approved to undertake an activity.
- Seek changes by running for a seat on the special district's governing body
- Ask the appropriate entity to conduct a general oversight review of the district (For more information, see Section 189.068, Florida Statutes - Special districts; authority for oversight; general oversight review process).
- In some cases, you may be able to file a formal complaint. For example, if the issue concerns a possible violation of Florida's ethics laws, contact the Commission on Ethics for more information (for contact information, see Special District Resources and Contacts). If the issue concerns a violation of Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine laws, contact your local state attorney's office.
- Contact your state representative and suggest ways to improve the laws that govern special districts.
Obtaining Information / Official Records From A Special District
- Contact the special district directly and make a public records request or go the special district’s web site and find the information.
- Visit the special district's web site
In addition, see Special District Resources and Contacts.