Oct 202017
 

by Rick Boettger…….

It’s official: the Florida Commission on Ethics affirmed the 16 ethics violations committed by Commissioners Sylvia Murphy, Danny Kolhage, David Rice, and Heather Carruthers at their meeting in Tallahassee today [Friday morning, Oct. 20]. The total fines were even higher than I reported last week, because they imposed a violation for a year for which I did not even file a complaint—in all, it came to $20,000 for the four.

The amount of their errors was astounding, far more than I estimated when I filed the complaints in February this year. While I could see around $3.8 million in misreported financial data, it came to over $15,352,000 for the four over all four years, including net worth, assets, liabilities, and income reporting errors, based on their amended Form 6X’s and noted by the Report on Investigations by the Ethics commission’s investigator.  For errors of form, I counted 51 in all.  These in fact added up to over 700 errors of form, counting addresses and unreported specific investments, etc.

They got to our cases at 9:07, and we were done at 9:18. The main item of discussion was the size of the fines. The Ethics Commissioners, I felt, wondered why they were as high as they were (George Neugent was fined a relatively paltry $500 per year for inaccurate financial disclosure forms). These four got between $1,000 and $1,500 per year, more or less the difference between a slap on the wrist and an ass-kicking.

I had hoped the higher fines were because the Ethic Commission, like me, thought the Monroe commissioners’ naming George “Honorary Mayor” within a month of his receiving “Public Reprimand and Censure” was a clear slap in the face of the very concept of ethics.  But no, the advocate said the high fines were what the Monroe commissioners proffered, and were “higher than ordinarily asked.”

It looks to me like they were simply desperate for this to go away. Had they fought the charges, and haggled over the fines, we could have had as many as eight meetings, each one reported separately. They wanted to pull the bandage off all at once, instead of drawing out the torture.  This worked out well for me, as well. Just one overnighter to our Capital, which is not exactly a vacation destination, instead of eight of them.

As a blushing aside, the quote of the day is one Ethics commissioner’s comment: “The Complainant did a very good job of laying out” the financial issues involved. Second place is for the advocate’s explanations for why Rice was fined more than Heather, and Sylvia less than the others: David’s were “more egregious” and Sylvia’s were “less egregious.” The operative word here is “egregious”. Amen and hallelujah.

To repeat why this is important, it shows both the lack of regard for honest financial reporting and an incompetence at reading simple directions.  In other media, the commissioners have defended themselves on the basis of “arcane” demands.  This is nonsense.  99% of their errors were simply not putting in accurate values for their income, financial portfolios, and real estate.  Or writing in addresses. If they can’t follow these rules, how on earth can we trust them with a half billion of our tax dollars, much of which is spent on difficult programs to judge?

In coming weeks, I will be discussing each individual commissioner one at a time.  I will be emailing each detailed questions in their turn, so you will get to see their side of things.

Let me leave you with a guessing game:  Which of the commissioners had the following individual total financial misreporting errors, each in millions of dollars?:

$7.4

$4.6

$2.3

$1.1

Second guess, is who made the most errors of form? (I bet this one will surprise you.)

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Rick Boettger

Rick Boettger had a Top Secret security clearance in the Army and studied nuclear chemistry at MIT and law at Yale before getting a PhD in business at Berkeley. He earned tenure as a business professor at TCU in Fort Worth before going to Moscow as a Fulbright Professor, writing a book on the economy, hosting a semi-national talk radio show, and retiring to Key West in 1996 at the age of 48. Since then he has worked part-time as a tax and financial advisor, and has been doing investigative journalism since he began at the Blue Paper in 2007​. He is very happily married to his superb copy-editor Cynthia Edwards, the former long-time PIO for the Key West Police Department.


  9 Responses to “COMMISSIONERS’ ETHICS VIOLATIONS: Misreporting Totaled $15.36 Million”

  1. I’m enjoying the heck out of all this. Not gonna lie.

    I had to laugh at Murphy and Carruthers pretending that the form is difficult and convoluted. It’s not bad at all – no worse than a tax return. I think lying and carelessness are just ingrained into all five commissioners. They couldn’t go straight even if they wanted to.

    Appreciate your insight as to why the fines were so high. I was very curious about that.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

  2. Am sure they made enough side money LOL that the fines will not hurt them

  3. You is a devil, Rick, but you is OUR devil :-). OUR is La Résistance.

  4. Really nice work, Rick!

  5. nice work but watch your back and sleep with a 38

  6. Well done, sir. Keep up the good work. Would that we could have an effective ethics commission in DC….

  7. When the BOCC believed Roman Gastesi’s claim that money paid to private contractors remains County money in perpetuity (think SUFA debacle), I knew Monroe County was in trouble. But here’s the bigger question – why did it take Rick and KWTN to bring this to light? Doesn’t anybody in Tallahasse bother to read forms submitted to them?

    • My understanding is that complaints cannot be initiated by the ethics commission. They’ve been trying to change that. But I’m sure they look at some of these forms and think WTH??? You could tell Kolhage’s were way out of whack just by looking. Nothing added up.

      There are automatic fines for filing a form late or not at all, but a wonky form takes a complaint.

  8. Great work! Keep the petal to the metal. But if there ever is going to be a happy ending to this story it will be when Linda is given back the contract for the animal shelter and SUFA is made whole. And when the people of Key West throw the rascals out.