Wednesday, August 23, 2023

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Florida ethics chair resigns, keeps $400K Disney district job after revelation of conflict. (Tallahassee Democrat/USA Today Network)

Any third-year law student would know that Florida ethics laws prohibit dual office-holding.  But we are asked to believe that a graduate of Harvard Law Schoo, Florida's Governor, one RONALD DION DeSANTIS, his learned counsel, the 200+ lawyer State Attorney General's office, and GLEN GILZEAN, JR., the recently resigned Ethics Commission Chair were all ignorant of the law against dual office-holding concerning the $400,000 chair of the Central Floridas Tourism Oversight Board?  

"That dawg won't hunt," as this cute New Yorker cartoon so eloquently states:

"There's always some poor S.O.B. who doesn't get the word," as JFK said that during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Is one-party rule in Tallahassee and Florida a root cause of overdevelopment and creeping corruption? You tell me.

Who picks DeSANTIS nominees to State jobs?  The Federalist Society?  The National Association of Manufacturers? Florida Associated Industries?  Moms for Liberty? You tell me.   "Is it pay to play," as in $50,000 for a round of golf with the goofy Boy Governor? You tell me.

From  Tallahassee Democrat/USA Today Network:

Florida ethics chair resigns, keeps $400K Disney district job after revelation of conflict

Douglas Soule

Ensnared in a legal dilemma over his dual roles as Florida's ethics commission chair and head of Gov. Ron DeSantis' Disney district, Glen Gilzean Jr. chose to keep his district position and the $400,000 salary that comes with it.

He announced his resignation as chair of the Florida Commission on Ethics in a Tuesday letter obtained by The Messenger. It's a prestigious but unpaid position, one he was appointed to by DeSantis.

While the commission's own website says "No member may hold any public employment," Gilzean said he was unaware of any possible conflict.

"Regrettably, if I had been aware of any issue presented by serving in the two positions, I would have addressed it immediately," Gilzean said.

That puts him at even more odds with the commission's general counsel, Steven Zuilkowski.

Gilzean requested a legal opinion from the counsel last week, after questions had been raised about him having both positions.

"Based on our conversations from a few months ago, I remained on the Commission on Ethics after starting employment with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District," Gilzean wrote in his request.

Glenton Gilzean Jr.

In the opinion, Zuilkowski advised Gilzean he would have to resign from one of his positions, since him being the Disney district administrator counted as "public employment." He also denied being part of any conversation where Gilzean was told he was OK doing both jobs.

"You informed us that you had received legal advice elsewhere about holding both positions," Zuilkowski wrote "You stated you would contact me if you wanted my legal opinion... I was not present for any other conversations you may have had with [Kerrie Stillman, the commission's executive director]."

That prompted a brief, bickering back-and-forth over email between Stillman, Zuilkowski and Gilzean that was obtained by The Florida Bulldog, the online news source that first reported the conflicting roles.

"I also came to learn that the legal opinion I requested from the Commission’s General Counsel was simultaneously released to the media," he said in his resignation letter. "The Commission General Counsel also decided in the memorandum, unnecessarily, to disclose and mischaracterize previous communications I had with him while seeking legal advice relating to my service on the Commission on Ethics."

The DeSantis-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board unanimously approved Gilzean as administrator in May. His $400,000 salary is $45,000 more than the last administrator got, but the board said the new role came with more responsibilities and the knowledge the person filling it would have to deal with litigation from Disney.

Gilzean, ethics lawyer at odds:'Conflict': DeSantis ally can't lead both ethics board and Disney district, lawyer says

In April, the theme park giant filed a federal lawsuit against the governor.

Gilzean and the board, along with acting Secretary of the Department of Economic Opportunity Meredith Ivey, are also named in the suit. The board filed a legal salvo of its own against Disney in state court.

In interviews, writings and at the podium, DeSantis has repeatedly connected the legislative crackdown on Disney with what he calls their "woke" criticism of his signature parents rights law. But at other times and in his legal arguments, he said those efforts were focused on fairness, putting Disney on "a level playing field with every other business in Florida."

Ramifications of the takeover are still far from settled, even outside the courts.

Last month, the board, encumbered with litigation costs due to the Disney dispute and other start-up expenses, said it's eyeing cutting $8 million used to pay off-duty law enforcement officers who exclusively patrol Disney properties. Chairman Martin Garcia called it "wasteful spending."

This reporting content is supported by a partnership with Freedom Forum and Journalism Funding Partners. USA Today Network-Florida First Amendment reporter Douglas Soule is based in Tallahassee, Fla. He can be reached at Twitter: @DouglasSoule.

No comments: