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Ken Pruitt’

On Senate Reunion Day, Pruitt slapped by former colleagues

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Former Senate President Ken Pruitt's double-duty as lobbyist could be barred.

Former Senate President Ken Pruitt is a loser in new ethics standards for local government officials unanimously approved Wednesday by the Florida Senate.

The legislation (CS/SB 846) sets a new code of conduct for members of quasi-government boards like Enterprise Florida, requires city council members to take four hours of ethics training,  and would force lobbyists working for such special districts as the South Florida Water Management District and Port of Palm Beach to register with the state and submit quarterly financial disclosure reports.

The measure still has to clear the House before going to Gov. Rick Scott. But sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said the legislation was a logical extension of the tougher ethics standards lawmakers adopted for themselves last year.

“There’s no reason for the people who serve on these boards not to have the same code of conduct,” Latvala said.

But an amendment added Wednesday and sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, also toughened the bill by prohibiting local officials from lobbying the Legislature for other special interests. The measure would affect state attorneys, county commissioners, constitutional officers, school superintendents, school board members and others.

Although not specifically named, a target of the prohibition is Pruitt, who as St. Lucie County Property Appraiser also has built a large and lucrative lobbying practice.

Pruitt, who was not immediately available following the Senate vote, works the halls in Tallahassee while on temporary leave from his St. Lucie post but represents 15 clients, including the city of Boca Raton, sugar giant Florida Crystals and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Pruitt was Senate President from 2006-08 and represented parts of Palm Beach County in the Legislature for most of two decades. His lobbying practice has rankled some senators. The bill would prohibit these officers from lobbying after their next election.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, unsuccessfully sought to have Sobel’s amendment softened by shielding any local officers currently lobbying — making it only apply to those who seek double-duty in the future. She said only three officials — presumably Pruitt among them — would be protected by the measure.

But it was a no sale with fellow senators.

The legislation was approved 39-0 by the Senate, about two hours before the chamber ended its day early and paused to honor its past members on Senate Reunion Day.




Weatherford adds Mears, Duffy to House speaker’s office

Thursday, June 7th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has begun staffing up in anticipation of taking over the state House reins following the November elections.

Weatherford on Thursday announced he has hired veteran Capitol aide Kathy Mears as his chief-of-staff. Mears began her Tallahassee career as spokeswoman for then-House Speaker Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, who in 1996 became the first Republican to lead the Florida House in 122 years.

Mears has since been a deputy chief-of-staff and legislative director under Gov. Charlie Crist, a deputy chief and communications director for Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and spokeswoman for Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

Weatherford also named Ryan Duffy as his communications director. Duffy recently worked as spokesman for the Republican leadership team in the House, and formerly was a speechwriter for Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Mel Martinez. He was also a deputy communications director for former Attorney General Bill McCollum’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

Federal agents question Senate President Jeff Atwater

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Federal agents investigating the corruption case against Broward County political kingmaker Alan Mendelsohn questioned Senate President Jeff Atwater this morning, Atwater’s spokeswoman confirmed.

Federal Bureau of Investigations agent Brian Szczepanski and four others met with Atwater this morning for about 45 minutes, Atwater’s spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof said.

They asked questions about the “committee process and structure,” Emhof said.

“We cannot comment as to the specifics of the questions, as this is an ongoing investigation,” Emhof said.

The agents from the FBI, the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service have been poking around the Senate all week and have visited with at least five GOP senators, including Atwater.

Atwater’s spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof did not say what the agents asked the North Palm Beach banker about but others interviewed said that they were asked questions about former Sen. Mandy Dawson, Mendelsohn and other senators whom Mendelsohn had held fundraisers for at his Broward County home.

Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, spoke with four federal agents briefly on Monday. Sen. Paula Dockery said she spoke with two agents yesterday for at least an hour. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said he was questioned on Monday as well.

The agents asked questions about how committee chairmanships are assigned, Dockery and Jones said.

Former Senate President Ken Pruitt picked Dawson to chair a health care committee, an unusual move because she is a Democrat. She also became ill during the 2008 session and was frequently absent but Pruitt allowed her to remain on as chairman of the committee in the GOP-dominated Senate.

The investigators include a lawyer who works in the public integrity section of the Department of Justice in Washington.

They asked questions about how committee chairmanships are assigned and about Dawson’s relationship with Mendelsohn, who was indicted in October.

Mendelsohn was the chief fundraiser for the powerful Florida Medical Association and played a major role in channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to political parties and candidates.

The federal indictment includes the claim that Mendelsohn used three political action committees to funnel $87,000 to a former public official.

The indictment doesn’t name the official. It says the money was passed through an intermediary — also unnamed in the charging document — and disguised as payments for consulting services. The indictment details 10 of the purported payments, totaling $72,000 between May 2004 and December 2005.

The largest alleged payment was $25,000 on June 21, 2004 from “PAC #1.”


Haridopolos to be named senate prez on Dec. 8

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Dara Kam



Sen. Mike Haridopolos will be named the 2011-2012 Senate President on Dec. 8 at 5 p.m.

The Melbourne Republican will assume the post after the two-year tenure of current Senate President Jeff Atwater ends next fall.



Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, is leaving the Senate to run for Chief Financial Officer.

Haridopolos’ ascension is a trifecta for the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast region and continue its domination of the top of the Senate for a total of six years.



Atwater’s district includes part of Broward and Palm Beach counties. He was preceded by former Senate President Ken Pruitt, a Port St. Lucie Republican whose district included Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties.

The southeastern portion of Haridopolos’ Senate District 26 dips into St. Lucie County.

The three political leaders each previously served in the Florida House before joining the Senate.

Senate newbie Negron to chair judiciary

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Senate President Jeff Atwater tapped newly elected state Sen. Joe Negron to chair the Judiciary Committee, a plumb post for the freshman senator.

Atwater made few other changes in the committee line-up, leaving most chairmen in place in what for many will be their last legislative session because of term limits.

Negron, a former House member, won a special election last month fill former Senate President Ken Pruitt’s District 28 seat. Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, abruptly left office on the last day of the legislative session early in May.

Negron will serve the final 15 months of Pruitt’s Senate term and face reelection in 2010.

Negron, an attorney who served in the state House from 2000 to 2006, gained national attention when the GOP recruited him at the last minute to replace scandal-tainted U.S. Rep. Mark Foley. Negron narrowly lost the race to Democrat Tim Mahoney, who was later defeated by Republican Tom Rooney.

UPDATE: Pruitt says he’s not unnamed official in Mendelsohn indictment

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Former state Senate President Ken Pruitt said this afternoon that he’s not the unnamed former public official who received $87,000 in secret money from Dr. Alan Mendelsohn.
The Daily Pulp blog this morning reported that Pruitt is the unidentified former public official mentioned in the indictment against Mendelsohn, a Broward County eye doctor who is charged with skimming $300,000 in campaign contributions for his own use and illegally using campaign funds to pay for his mistress’ home and car.
Seated behind his desk at the law firm where he works in the Tradition neighborhood of Port St. Lucie, the Port St. Lucie Republican told Palm Beach Post reporter Daphne Duret that he hasn’t been contacted by any law enforcement official about the investigation and rejected The Daily Pulp blog’s allegation that his name surfaced in the investigation.
“It’s a criminal investigation that I am not a part of at all,” he said. “I’m not a part of it, my name, to my knowledge, is not a part of it. I don’t know what else to say.” (more…)

Pruitt testifies in criminal case involving state budget issue

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by Palm Beach Post Staff

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

TALLAHASSEE — A controversial college construction project in the Panhandle followed a similar initiative at Indian River State College, according to e-mails assembled in the criminal case against former state House Speaker Ray Sansom.
But the building in Fort Pierce has one important difference, former Senate President Ken Pruitt recently said in sworn pre-trial testimony:

“There is no airport hangar there,” Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, told state investigators.


Argenio-Negron III set for June 30

Monday, May 18th, 2009 by George Bennett

Gov. Charlie Crist today ordered June 30 primaries and an Aug. 4 general election to fill the Treasure Coast-Palm Beach County state Senate District 28 seat of retiring Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

Pruitt, with an eye on the statutory timetable for calling special elections, set his resignation for Aug. 4 so the district would not go unrepresented.

Former Republican state Reps. Art Argenio and Joe Negron, who clashed in a bitter special election primary in 1999 (won by Argenio) and another tough primary in 2000 (won by Negron) are running for Pruitt’s seat. Democrat Bill Ramos has also opened a campaign and frequent-filing Democrat Stan Smilan has expressed interest. Read more about the race here.

The period for candidates to officially qualify for the special election ballot will be from 8 a.m. on June 2 until 12 noon on June 3.

Ex-state Rep. pours $40k into state Senate race

Friday, April 10th, 2009 by George Bennett

Former Republican state Rep. Art Argenio on March 31 put $40,000 of his own money into his 2010 campaign for the seat of term-limited state Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie. Argenio raised $3,050 from other sources. Former Republican state Rep. Joe Negron has raised $63,800 for the race.

First-quarter campaign finance reports are due today. We’ll have more updates throughout the day.

Argenio beat Negron in a bitter 1999 special election runoff to win a state House seat. Negron ousted Argenio in another rough-and-tumble primary the following year.

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