Haridopolos let off hook for ethics violation

Feb 24, 2011

The following article was published in The Florida Current on February 24, 2011:

Haridopolos “admonished” for ethics violation

Senate President Mike Haridopolos was given a letter of admonishment by a Senate panel after admitting to an ethics violation for incorrectly filling out financial disclosure forms.

The Senate Rules Committee unanimously ruled on Thursday that “the violations were neither willful nor intentional” and Haridopolos corrected the mistakes after failing to disclose certain assets from 2004 to 2008, including an investment property in Mount Dora and a second source of income from a consulting firm he ran.

Haridopolos wrote a letter to the committee and stated he takes “this situation very seriously and will embrace whatever is deemed to be the appropriate penalty.”

Rules Committee professional staff director John Phelps stated that he determined two other similar cases from the Florida House in 2000 resulted in a letter of admonishment, while the consent decree reads that the same would be “an appropriate level of penalty” for Haridopolos.

Chairman of the committee Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, said “because of the sincerity and the letter written by the President apologizing to the members of the Senate, I think what we are doing is the appropriate action.”

The Florida Democratic Party on Wednesday had called out Thrasher and committee member Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, stating they had “a clear conflict of interest” after endorsing Haridopolos’ campaign.

But Thrasher had a particularly strong response to the calls to remove himself, stating “hell no, absolutely not.”

“I think that’s a total political bunch of crap from the Democratic Party of Florida,” said Thrasher after the meeting. “They’re used to losing, obviously.”

The Rules Committee was given authority to determine a penalty after the Florida Commission on Ethics had deferred, stating it was not in their authority to make such a decision.

Haridopolos further stated in his letter that he apologizes to the members of the Senate and that he ultimately accepts responsibility for his mistakes.

“I have learned from this process and have gained a greater respect for the need for elected officials to remain diligent in their efforts to be transparent with the public,” Haridopolos wrote.