Posted on Friday, 06.15.12
Ethics commission admits it needs teeth to enforce laws
The watchdog agency in charge of probing corruption and fining violators wants legislators to strengthen its power to enforce the laws
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Commission on Ethics will ask the Legislature for the authority to impose higher fines on public officials who flout the rules and the teeth to go after those that don't pay up.The frustrated panel, which penalizes public officials who break ethics laws, is unable to collect about $100,000 in unpaid fines due to a law that prevents it from enforcing fines after four years.Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has publicly touted the need for ethics reform, sparking hope that next year's legislative session might yield stronger laws. Ethics reform is consistently shut down by lawmakers, some of whom owe fines and benefit from keeping conflict-of-interest laws weak.Case in point: Commissioners expressed frustration that they can no longer go after Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican who still owes a $1,500 fine from 2004."Any elected official who owes a fine and doesn't pay, ought to be embarrassed about it," said Commissioner Linda Robison, a Pompano Beach attorney
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services job, which he started in April 2011, required Democrat George Sheldon to live out of state and made him ineligible to run for state attorney general.
Gov. Rick Scott said no state business was discussed when he and other Republican lawmakers went on a Texas hunting trip to paid, in part, by the sugar industry.
A Scott campaign spokesman did not respond to questions about whether the governor talked to King Ranch officials about the appointment after his successful hunting trip.