Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Watchdog groups call on Gov. DeSantis to veto ethics bill. (Florida Phoenix)

Our other-directed state legislature, misled by the likes of House Speaker PAUL RENNER, part of our St. Johns County Legislative Delegation, has delusions of adequacy.  What a farce.  From Florida Phoenix: 

Watchdog groups call on Gov. DeSantis to veto ethics bill

Legislation calls for limiting investigations into public corruption only if an individual had personal knowledge of wrongdoing

BY:  - MARCH 14, 2024 1:10 PM

 Timisu graphic via Pixabay

A coalition of state watchdog groups have sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, calling on him to veto an ethics bill that prohibits ethics commissions from pursuing any investigation of public officials or candidates for public office unless it comes from an individual “based on personal knowledge or information other than hearsay.”

Under the bill’s language, (SB 7014) that would be contrary to the law of the land related to the ethics commission in Florida.

“Specifically, the bill requires ethics complaints filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics (“Commission”) to be based on personal knowledge, which is an unreasonably high evidentiary hurdle that has never existed in the 50-year history of the Commission. Instead, complaints should continue to require the filer to certify that the information is true to the best of their knowledge, which already discourages false and frivolous complaints,” the letter reads.

Kedric Payne is the vice president, general counsel, and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, based in Washington, D.C. He said in a written statement. “Floridians deserve to have a hand in their democracy, and they deserve to fight for their right to know that their elected officials are putting the public good over personal gain.”

“Ethics enforcement in the state of Florida has traditionally relied on the public being able to come forward and file complaints on potential cases of misconduct by officials. The Florida Ethics Commission is already limited because it cannot start an investigation itself without a complain,” he said. “Allowing only people with direct knowledge to file against potential wrongdoers is a major setback to transparency and accountability. Governor DeSantis should do right by his constituents and veto this bill.”

The request for the governor’s veto comes from nine different groups, including the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida and the NAACP Florida State Conference.

The letter states: “The public’s ability to file ethics complaints is essential to ethics enforcement in Florida. The Commission is not permitted to self-initiate an investigation, even if there are credible allegations of violations in public documents such as news reports.”

The groups also state that this new standard, under the bill, is “perniciously high and one that most Floridians who learn of possible ethics violations cannot meet.”

“Indeed, all Floridians are injured by ethics violations, which harm the public-at-large’s trust in government, but by democratic design, many do not have personal knowledge of the violations because they have entrusted the work of government to their elected officials,” they write.

The measure also would prohibit local ethics boards from initiating their own investigations. Currently, they can do investigations on their own.

The measure was passed mostly along party lines on March 7, in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

House Speaker Paul Renner told reporters last week that as a former prosecutor, it didn’t offend him that the measure calls for an individual having some personal knowledge to be able to file a complaint. He said that “we’ve seen a greater partisan divide where people are weaponizing these kinds of claims, especially right before an election.”

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Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafin

1 comment:

Jacob said...

In other words, it's hearsay if anyone but a Republican says something. Need Supreme Court to weigh in on corrupt Florida GOP constitutional rights violations, corrupt contracts, corrupt hiring, malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, civil and human rights violations.