The rest of us pay when elected officials misbehave

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Former state Rep. Daisy Baez resigned Wednesday for lying on an official document about where she lived.
Former state Rep. Daisy Baez resigned Wednesday for lying on an official document about where she lived. The Florida Channel

At least she could have apologized.

State Rep. Daisy Baez sought, then squandered, her constituents’ goodwill and confidence that she would work hard on their behalf in Tallahassee. But instead of relocating into District 114, where residents elected her, and as required by the state Constitution, she stayed put in her home in District 112 long after Election Day 2016.

And now she’s has resigned from the Legislature for the most ridiculous of reasons: She didn’t move — and she lied about it, on a voter-registration form, no less, a felony. Now it’s a criminal case. She’ll plead guilty to a misdemeanor, pay a $1,000, and be on probation for a year.

That must be one really nice house she’s living in.

Baez is the third Florida lawmaker to resign this year because of bad behavior. Throw in former Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, and it’s easy to see from where voters’ cynicism stems.

That said, Grieco managed to retain his popularity during his last few months in office despite the fact that he, too, lied to his constituents. He denied any knowledge of a PAC, even though the establishing documents bore his signature. It took a handwriting expert, hired by the Herald, to make that determination. When voters turn a blind eye to such violations, and rationalize them away, that, too, is a sign of government, and democracy, in peril.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, poised to assume the Democratic leadership, resigned his seat last week when his affair with a lobbyist was disclosed. And, of course, former Sen. Frank Artiles reluctantly tried to hold on to his seat after he flung about racial slurs. He was arrogant enough to think he could weather the ensuing storm, but even his friends in the Legislature told him he had to go.

Here’s the bottom line: If you want to stay in your house, don’t run for office in the district next door. If you want a girlfriend when you already have a wife, do it on your own time — though, of course, it’s not a good idea to do it at all. If you want to bandy about racial slurs, keep that ugliness in your living room. Leave the rest of us out of it. The cost is too high.

In her goodbye letter to her former constituents, Baez chirps about everything but the reason she is leaving office. “As I return to life as a private citizen” she says, “I pledge to continue to fight for universal healthcare, empowering our teachers, and improving the equality of life for the youngest, and the most vulnerable Floridians.”

When the Editorial Board recommended her for this seat, we assumed, along with all who supported her, that she would do that as an elected official.

And she never apologized for her lapse.

She gets one thing right when she says it was an “honor” to serve. Unfortunately, she, two other state lawmakers, and a city commissioner, in rapid succession, failed to honor that honor.