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Hasner’s ethics agreement accepted, leaving at least one Democrat steamed

Friday, September 9th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The Florida Commission on Ethics accepted an agreement Friday with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Adam Hasner, who acknowledged that he failed to submit his 2010 state financial disclosure form on time.

Hasner, a former House majority leader from Delray Beach, left the Legislature last November, but still was required by law to submit his disclosure statement for that year. Hasner said the form had been sent to him by certified mail from the Legislature, but was returned as “unclaimed” in error by the Post Office.

Hasner turned in his 2010 form within a month of being notified that it was missing.  But a Palm Beach County Democratic activist, Diana Demarest, filed an ethics complaint against Hasner and Friday said “he still thinks he’s above the law.”

As part of the legal stipulation with Hasner, Friday’s public report is likely to prove the only punishment leveled against the candidate. The commission can only recommend fines or other penalties. But final action against a former representative would come from the House, which has shown no interest in pursuing the matter.

Hasner is among four top Republicans seeking the party’s nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Neither Hasner nor his attorney attended Friday’s hearing. A spokesman for the campaign also denied comment on the outcome.

Demarest, a political consultant who openly supports Nelson, said she was unhappy with the commission’s action. “These guys leave office and just blow off doing what they’re supposed to do,” Demarest said.

Hasner is the latest in a recent string of legislators running afoul of financial disclosure laws.  Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, who dropped out of the U.S. Senate race earlier this summer, was admonished last spring by the Senate for failing to fully disclose details about his finances from 2004 through 2008.


PSC chairman calls his drinks with utility prez, a “rookie mistake”

Monday, April 11th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott’s appointment of four new state utility regulators was unanimously approved Monday by a Senate panel, despite criticism from a ratepayers’ organization about Chairman Art Graham’s huddling with a water company’s lobbyist during a Washington, D.C. conference.

Graham already has an Ethics Commission complaint filed against him by David Bussey of Zephyrhills, an administrator with a recreational vehicle park served by Aqua Utilities Florida, whose customers also include about 1,200 Lake Osborne Estates residents west of Lake Worth.

Bussey called for the Ethics and Elections Committee to deny Graham’s confirmation over his almost hourlong meeting with Aqua’s regional president, Christopher Franklin, during a break in a national utilities conference in February at Washington’s Renaissance Hotel. Graham said the pair didn’t speak about Aqua’s rate issues.

Instead, Graham told the committee, “We were just two guys sitting back, killing time.”

But Bussey countered, saying, “How much time does it take before any wrongdoing takes place? What’s the tipping point?” 

Aqua has about 16,000 customers across 17 Florida counties.  Many have been hit with steep, recent rate increases, with the company doubling Lake Osborne’s rates in 2009 and seeking another 30 percent increase this year.

The Senate panel seemed unfazed by Graham’s lapse, which he called a “rookie mistake.”

Graham and Commissioners Ronald Brisé, Julie Brown and Eduardo Balbis, a former assistant city administrator in West Palm Beach, were approved for confirmation Monday. They still must go before the full Senate. (more…)

Statewide grand jury calls on lawmakers to beef up ethics laws

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The statewide grand jury looking into public corruption issued its preliminary report today and called on the legislature to beef up Florida’s ethics laws.

The 127-page preliminary report suggests that lawmakers take a page from Palm Beach County’s anti-corruption measures enacted after three county commissioners wound up behind bars for misusing their office.

The statewide grand jury, at work for nearly a year and set to expire in February, report recommended requiring employees at private businesses that have government contracts to be subject to the same ethics laws as public employees.

Other recommendations include:
- Tougher sentences for officials who use their public office to commit crimes;
- Creating an independent Inspector General to oversee agency inspectors general;
- Expanding bid-tampering laws to include bid-rigging schemes;
- Giving the Ethics Commission the power to initiate investigations.

Retired Judge Edward Rodgers named to new ethics commission

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 by George Bennett



The Palm Beach County League of Cities today picked retired Circuit Judge and former Riviera Beach councilman Edward Rodgers to fill the seat set aside for a former elected official on the new county Ethics Commission.

Rodgers was one of eight former elected officials vying for the spot.

The five-member ethics panel was created by county commissioners last year in response to scandals that sent five local elected official to federal prison between 2006 and 2009. Each of the seats is to be filled by a different organization. In addition to the League of Cities’ choice of Rodgers, county police chiefs picked former federal prosecutor Bruce Reinhart for one seat and the president of Florida Atlantic University picked FAU ethics professor Robin Fiore for another.

The two remaining seats will be filled by the county chapter of the Florida Institute of CPAs and by a coalition of minority lawyer groups.

Six former elected officials apply for ethics commission seat as Monday deadline looms

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 by George Bennett

Six former elected officials have applied so far for one of the seats on the new five-member county ethics commission approved by Palm Beach County commissioners last month as part of a sweeping package of reforms.

The ethics legislation calls for the Palm Beach County League of Cities to fill one of the seats by appointing a former elected official. The league plans to make its choice Wednesday, Jan. 27, so Executive Director Jamie Titcomb has set a deadline of 5 p.m. Monday to submit applications.

Applicants so far: former county commissioner Ken Adams, former county commissioner Dennis Koehler, former Jupiter councilman Tom McCarthy, former Delray Beach commissioner Alberta McCarthy, former Delray Beach mayor David Schmidt and former Haverhill Mayor Chuck Stoddard.

Other seats on the ethics panel are to be filled by county police chiefs, the local chapter of the Florida Institute of CPAs, the president of Florida Atlantic University and a coalition of minority lawyer groups.

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