An ethics complaint against state Rep. Kim Daniels was dropped Friday after the state ethics commission determined the complaint was filed too close to an election to qualify. The same commission earlier found probable cause the Jacksonville Democrat had filed false financial disclosure forms.
The complaint was filed based on reporting by The Florida Times-Union that showed Daniels, who pastors a church, shuffled properties and time-shares to her nonprofit ministry and didn’t disclose $1 million in debt owed on a Broward County home. Her disclosures listed no properties or mortgage debt during her years on Jacksonville City Council.
As a state representative, she still lists no properties or mortgage debt despite the finding by the Florida Commission on Ethics of probable cause she violated the state’s laws and constitution by failing to properly disclose her finances during her time on City Council.
Despite that finding, the commission had to drop the matter, advocate Melody Hadley said in a motion, because complaints can’t be filed in the 30 days preceding an election. This complaint, which cited the newspaper’s reporting, was filed just days before Daniels lost re-election to City Council. A year later, Daniels won election to the Florida House.
On Friday, the Ethics Commission agreed to drop the case. However, the commission’s statute of limitations is five years, and it can still hear complaints about Daniels’ City Council disclosures, commission spokeswoman Kerrie Stillman said, assuming the complaints aren’t filed within 30 days of an election. The commission only investigates ethics issues once a complaint is filed, Stillman said, and the investigation is limited to what’s included in the complaint.
Daniels, who was one of the most conservative members of City Council during her one term, has continued her stance as a conservative Democrat in the Legislature, with a particular focus on religious liberty. She authored a new law last year that guaranteed students could express religious views at school, including by praying before, during and after class. The law also specified that teachers can join in before and after the school day.
Stillman said it took nearly three years to realize the complaint was ineligible because Daniels hadn’t notified the commission until recently.
“I think that’s problematic,” Daniels’ attorney, James H.K. Bruner, said. Whether the commission has jurisdiction over a complaint should be “fundamental to them accepting a case.”
Bruner said even though the case was dismissed on technical grounds, he was ready to dispute the commission’s investigation that found probable cause that Daniels violated state law.
The commission’s report listed a number of findings about assets and debts, including the fact that Daniels owned a Jacksonville home but didn’t list it as an asset and she didn’t list its mortgage as a debt.
The house now lists Kimberly M. Smith as its current owner, and it lists Smith’s mailing address as the same as the address where Daniels is registered to vote. Daniels’ middle name is Marvina, and, according to her divorce documents, she has a daughter whose last name is Smith. It’s unclear if Daniels has changed her legal name.
Daniels didn’t respond to a request for comment, and her attorney said he didn’t know if she was now going by Smith.
The commission’s investigation found that Daniels had eight properties, but seven of them were through two of her nonprofit ministries, including the home where she lived. She said she doesn’t pay any of the mortgages personally, and the church handles them instead. Even the house that was in her name was not disclosed in her financial documents. For that home, there was a home-equity line of credit given in Daniels’ and her then-husband’s name.
Daniels also claimed to not own a car.
When she went through a divorce, proceeds from the sale of one of the church’s homes were split between her and her ex-husband. Technically, the report said, because the home was still listed as belonging to the church, Daniels would not have had to list it in her disclosure.
But when Daniels said the church owned three time-shares in Orlando and Daytona Beach, the commission report found that the lawmaker may have been less than forthcoming. The documents listed Daniels and her then-husband’s names on the documents. Without evidence to the contrary, the report said, “it can be presumed that [Daniels’]” interest and debts in the time-shares should have been disclosed.
It’s unclear if Daniels still owns the time-shares. She did not list them on her most recent financial disclosure.
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SOURCE: Jacksonville News – Andrew Pantazi