New Ethics Bill Would Ensnare Four Florida Legislators on Charter School Legislation


Senate president Don Gaetz was obviously referring to former House Speaker Ray Sansom last week in his interview with Florida Face to Face while making the case for ethics reform:

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, used the example of a lawmaker who gets elected, snags a seat on the education committee and suddenly becomes an expert, leading to a paid job at a college or school district.

“That’s just a little bit too convenient,” Gaetz said on the public TV broadcast Florida Face to Face.

It’s fair to wonder if Gaetz will be applying the following standard from his ethics bill to four Florida legislators for their relationships with charter schools:

Requires lawmakers to abstain from voting on issues that benefit them or their family members.

Gaetz, who referred to Sansom’s position as a “walking around job,” will have a tough time explaining why this standard doesn’t apply to the following legislators – two of which chair key committees on education. Jeff Solochek listed them in a 2011 story:

Rep. (now Senator) John Legg (Dayspring Academy in Pasco) and Rep. Seth McKeel (South McKeel Academy and McKeel Elementary Academy in Polk), Rep. Erik Fresen (several Academica schools in Miami-Dade) and Sen. Anitere Flores (Doral Academy in Miami-Dade).

Legg (Education) and  Fresen (Education Appropriations Subcommittee) chair  committees and are in a position to drive key charter school bills this year on capital funding and parent trigger. The sort of conflict on interest the ethics bill details couldn’t be better applied that it can be here.

Will the ethics bill be watered down to protect these four? The senate could be losing two yes votes on parent trigger in Legg and Flores. McKeel’s Appropriation’s chair is compromised if capital funding for charter schools comes before his committee. With Gaetz making an example of Sansom “as an expert” he’s implying that Flores has a similar position with Doral.

Naturally, any ethics bill won’t go into effect until after the legislative session is over. How convenient.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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5 Responses to New Ethics Bill Would Ensnare Four Florida Legislators on Charter School Legislation

  1. Diane Kepus says:

    “Together these bills will increase transparency while guiding elected and public officials to avoid situations that even create an appearance of conflict.”

    Snow Job! Are the people of Florida really this stupid? First of all if the truth be known we should NOT need any legislation like this – our elected officials should have the morals to NOT put themselves into a position that would cause any inquiry into their behavior. But they don’t! At the very least they should have the ethics to NOT vote on bills that would affect them financially, but they don’t! FRESEN – “I was voting for ALL Charter schools.”

    SPB 7006 addresses a number of reported ethical concerns by making “financial disclosures available online”

    STOP!! Does this mean they can still be involved in conflict of interest financial gains but they just have to tell us??? “requiring state officers to abstain from voting on certain matters that benefit them directly, placing greater restrictions on public employment while in office, restrictions on lobbying after leaving office, and prohibiting officials from accepting gifts from political committees and Committees of Continuous Existence.”

    Does this mean that members of the Florida legislature can still serve on Jeb Bush’s Foundations and other Charter school entities where they can come back and offer advice to those voting and they can also vote on same but if they get paid for anything they just have to be sure to report it? Do they have to report the campaign donations in promise on voting a certain way on legislation?

    Is this bill going to cover the Commissioner of Education, Adam Putnam and the Governor from serving in any capacity on any Board, Committee, Council or any other entity as with “Enterprise Florida,Inc.” or will serving in those capacities be considered a part of their job?

    Don Gaetz even getting his fingers near that bill is a joke since he, Joe Negron, Weatherford, Thrasher and Legg have all been serving on Jeb Bush’s Foundation of which since this legislation is coming to light Jeb Bush has changed his web site and it no longer shows who are serving on the committees.

    I find it absolutely disgusting that our current and previous 2 Commissioner’s of Education are openly shown proudly as “Chief’s for Change and Eric Smith is now the Executive Director of same.

    Florida we not only have been had for years, but we have been screwed, blued and tattooed!

  2. Diane Kepus says:

    Forgot Flores – she is in deep too – what about her Community College Charter – where is that – surely they have funding!

  3. What a joke. Of COURSE the ethics bill won’t pertain to cronies–even if it were to apply retroactively. There is NO shame in these people’s game. Fresen has publicly laughed off all questions regarding a conflict of interest. This is crony capitalism at its finest. The most frustrating part of it is not even that it happens over and over–it’s that people keep reelecting these crooks over and over. WAKE UP, idiots!

  4. Diane Kepus says:

    Amen Jennifer! Over and over and over again and then they ask – “What Happened”?

  5. James says:

    When you call the phone number listed on the charter school board for Somerset Academies in NE Florida ( run by Academica) you get the office of Eric Fresen.

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