Miami-Dade County

Senate ethics push targets MDX official

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, wants a Miami-Dade road official thrown out of office for repeatedly ignoring the financial disclosure law. But it will take an act of the Legislature to allow it.

In two recent speeches, Gaetz has called for the removal from office of people who willfully ignore the ethics laws, and both times he has referred to a specific scofflaw without identifying him.

The Herald/Times found him: He’s Robert W. Holland, a Miami lawyer who has served on the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority since 2005.

“We actually have at least one public official in the state of Florida who’s decided he’s not going to file financial disclosure, he’s not going to pay the fine, and he’s going to thumb his nose at the law,” Gaetz told business leaders Tuesday at the Florida Chamber’s Capitol Days. “As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t reveal your assets and liabilities as required by the law and if you don’t pay your fines, I want you kicked out of office.”

The ethics commission has pursued Holland for six years for repeatedly refusing to file an annual Form 6 financial disclosure form. Commission records show he has been assessed fines totaling $7,500, or $1,500 in each of the past five years.

The commission’s most recent letter, on Dec. 4, 2013, warned Holland on notice that its next step is to ask a judge for permission to garnish his wages. “As a public officer in Florida, it is imperative that you meet the requirements of your office,” the commission told Holland.

A preliminary version of a new Senate ethics bill (SB 846) would allow for the removal from office of public officials who refuse to comply with ethics laws.

A biography of Holland on the expressway authority’s website says he specializes in government relations, land use, real estate, contracts and family law and has been a staff member for former Miami-Dade Commissioner Betty Ferguson and former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek.

Holland, a county appointee to the 13-member board, did not respond to phone and email requests for comment; expressway authority spokesman Mario Diaz said Holland was unavailable for comment.

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, have filed bills for the upcoming session that would reduce the authority to nine members and limit its power to increase tolls and issue bonds.

The bills (SB 772 and HB 353) also would prohibit an expressway authority member from also serving on the Florida Transportation Commission. Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre serves on both boards and was appointed to the FTC by Gov. Rick Scott.