Florida Bill Would Give Attorneys More Tools Against Corrupt Officials

Apr 13, 2010

Mary Ellen Klas

Miami Herald


State prosecutors would get new tools to crack down on corrupt government officials who hide their financial interests that result in private gain from their public jobs under a bill that unanimously passed out of a Senate committee Monday.


The measure, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, has the support of the 20 state attorneys. It would close a gap in state law that now prevents state attorneys from prosecuting officials who purposefully fail to disclose their financial interest because they want to shield how they are making money from their public offices.


Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe told the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee that the three Palm Beach County commissioners jailed on corruption charges pleaded guilty over the past three years because federal prosecutors, not his office, had the best tools to convict them.


"There is, in my opinion, a gap in Florida law," he said.


"This surgically addresses it" and provides a "focused approach to address the lack of an adequate toolbox for Florida prosecutors to combat corruption in our state."


Gov. Charlie Crist said last week that the Legislature's inaction on the issues could prompt him to call a special session in May or June to take up toughening the state's public corruption laws. Crist complained that since he became governor, he has had to remove more than 30 people from office on corruption charges -- about one a month.







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