Lobbyist to appeal fines for not filing client reports

A state ethics panel on Oct. 14 will consider Don Yaeger's appeal of a total of $18,250 in fines for violations in 2004.

Published October 4, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Lobbyist Don Yaeger is facing fines totaling $18,250 for his failure to file reports for some of the 37 clients he represented in 2004.

The Florida Commission on Ethics will consider his appeal of the fines at a meeting Oct. 14.

All lobbyists are required to file reports twice a year documenting their expenditures on behalf of each client. They face automatic fines of $50 a day for each client if they fail to file the required reports.

Yaeger was registered to lobby state agencies for 37 clients, including Cisco Systems and Oracle Corp., but failed to file some reports on time. He also failed to obtain the signatures of clients required for expenditure reports, according to the Ethics Commission.

Yaeger, a Sports Illustrated writer on leave to write a book about the University of Alabama football program, has for years balanced a lobbying career with sports writing.

The blending of his two careers landed him in controversy earlier this year after former University of Alabama coach Mike Price sued Yaeger and Sports Illustrated for libel over a 2003 story about Price's visit to a topless bar in Pensacola.

Officials at Sports Illustrated said Yaeger no longer was a lobbyist, but legislators say he frequently lobbies them.

Some of the notes he took in 2003 for the Price story were taken on note paper embossed with the seal of the state Senate and the words "Office of the President" because he was in the office of Senate President Jim King when he made telephone calls.

Staff attorneys for the Ethics Commission have questioned Yaeger's appeal of the fines, saying he has offered no unusual circumstance for his failure to file the required reports and has previously filed reports on time.

All lobbyists are entitled to a one-time waiver of the fines, but Yaeger got his waiver in 1997 when he failed to file expenditure reports.

In a written appeal, Yaeger contends the mistakes occurred because he changed staff, moved his office and failed to get some of the notices sent by lobbyist registration clerks. Ethics Commission lawyers note that none of the notices were returned by postal authorities.

Yaeger remains registered to lobby for 15 clients, including Danka, the GEO Group and Flo-Sun. He refused to discuss the proposed fine Monday, saying he would have nothing to say until the commission rules.