Sachs: ‘I am a legal resident of the District I represent in the Florida Senate. Period’by George Bennett | August 20th, 2013
The rulings do not address the merits of the claim that Sachs lives outside Senate District 34, but Sachs said they bolster her declaration of residency.
“I am a legal resident of the District I represent in the Florida Senate. Period. The Florida Senate Rules Committee as well as the Commission on Ethics of the State of Florida have both issued reports that support that fact,” Sachs said in a recent e-mail to The Palm Beach Post.
Sachs and her husband own a house west of Boca Raton that is outside Senate District 34. But Sachs last year changed the address on her voter registration and driver license to a 740-square-foot Fort Lauderdale condo unit that she rents from lobbyist and friend Judy Stern in District 34. Sachs also removed her name, but not her husband’s, from the homestead exemption on their Boca Raton property.
After a conservative website and media outlets questioned Sachs’ residency claim earlier this year, Tamarac resident Matthew Feiler filed complaints with the Senate Rules Committee and the Florida Commission on Ethics.
The Rules Committee tossed Feiler’s complaint on July 23, noting that Feiler relied on media accounts rather than first-hand knowledge of the allegations.
“This dismissal should not be taken as passing on the merits of the complaint,” Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, wrote in the dismissal letter.
The Ethics Commission also dismissed a Feiler complaint, ruling that his allegations that Sachs committed perjury and filed a false document were criminal in nature and fell outside the commission’s jurisdiction.
“No factual investigation preceded the review, and therefore the Commission’s conclusions do not reflect on the accuracy of the complaint,” a commission order dated July 31 says.
Sachs also provided the Palm Beach Post with a letter from her attorney, constitutional law expert Bruce Rogow, to support her residency claim.
The Florida Constitution says a legislator must be “an elector and resident of the district from which elected.” But there is no specific definition of residency in Florida elections laws.
“Residence is established by objective facts and intent to reside,” Rogow wrote in a July 25 letter to Sachs. “Based upon the information provided to me (your lease, rent checks, driver’s license, voter’s registration, relinquishment of homestead) and your specific intention to reside, you have met the Constitutional requirements.”
Controversy over the residency of Sachs and other lawmakers has led Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to launch an effort to more precisely define residency rules for lawmakers.
Tags: Maria Sachs