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Ethics Body Looking At Haridopolos

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Ethics Body Looking At Haridopolos

By Kathleen Haughney
The News Service Of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Oct. 27, 2010…….The state’s ethics commission is looking into the financial disclosure forms of incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, finding probable cause to investigate a Vero Beach man’s complaint that Haridopolos didn’t fully complete his forms.

The Florida Commission on Ethics released a statement Wednesday saying that it had “found probable cause to believe that Mike Haridopolos, member of the Florida Senate, failed to fully disclose his financial interests for the years 2004-2008.”

The crux of the complaint is that Haridopolos failed to properly identify his assets, though he had identified their total worth. The complainant, Eugene H. Benson, also alleged that Haridopolos had failed to properly identify any of his creditors and that the true value assigned to his house is incorrectly stated.

Haridopolos responded to the commission that he didn’t know about the mistakes in the form until the complaint was filed and immediately corrected them. According to the commission’s report, he pledged he would devote more attention and time to the filing of the forms in the future to make sure they are accurately completed.

“None of these were intentional and once pointed out, I corrected the mistakes,” Haridopolos said in a separate statement released to the media. “I have filed amended disclosure forms with the necessary corrections. Complete disclosure with the citizens of Florida is a responsibility I take very seriously, and that is why I felt it was important to make these corrections as soon as these errors were brought to my attention.”

If the Florida Commission on Ethics finds Haridopolos in violation of the state’s ethics laws, it could levy some sort of fine. In an odd twist, the commission’s findings and complaint are also forwarded to the Senate President for further review by the Senate. By the time the commission rules on the complaint, Haridopolos will likely be Senate President and thus have control over the future of the complaint.

The complaint against Haridopolos was filed in December 2009, but the issue of financial disclosures has received increased attention over the last month as several court cases have popped up trying to disqualify candidates who have made errors on their forms.

State Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, sued Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman over an inaccurate form after Norman defeated him in a state Senate Republican primary. A Tallahassee judge sided with Ambler, tossing Norman from the ballot, but the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned the ruling Wednesday.

Additionally, supporters of Democratic congressional candidate Joe Garcia sued Garcia’s GOP opponent, state Rep. David Rivera, in Miami-Dade Circuit Court and Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Sid Dinerstein sued Democrat state Rep. Kevin Rader, both over financial disclosure forms.

The Garcia-Rivera case has been tossed out by a Miami-Dade Circuit judge.

-END-
10/27/10

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