Report: Holding 2 jobs poses conflict
The Ethics Commission initially finds that a House candidate can't win and keep a group's presidency.
By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published July 25, 2006
CLEARWATER - A draft report from the state's Commission on Ethics says that state House candidate Nancy Riley would not be able to simultaneously hold the District 50 seat and the presidency of the Florida Association of Realtors.
A full hearing on the report will be held Friday, and a legally binding decision could be made at that time, said Kerrie Stillman, a spokeswoman with the Ethics Commission.
"Riley provided the Commission on Ethics with a scenario and asked the commission to make a ruling on (her) obligation under the ethics code," Stillman said Monday.
Riley is the president-elect of the Florida Association of Realtors, a statewide organization with more than 140,000 members that, according to its Web site, provides programs, services, research and legislative representation to its members.
It's in that role of legislative representative that the Ethics Commission saw the conflict of interest.
"As you point out, the range of issues on which the (Florida Association of Realtors) may take a position is extremely broad and 'may range, for example, from private property rights to taxes to homeowners insurance to the environment to funding the courts,' " the report states. "Thus, it would be effectively impossible for you to isolate yourself from issues of import to the association."
The report also states: "The organization's by-laws establish a legislative committee, and you advise that 'the president of (the Florida Association of Realtors) traditionally plays a significant role in developing (the association's) legislative agenda.'
"... It would be virtually impossible to draw a line distinguishing when you were acting 'as a State Representative' as opposed to acting 'as president of the (Florida Association of Realtors),' " the draft report says.
Riley declined to comment on the draft report Monday and referred all questions to her attorney, Mark Herron.
Herron said the initial findings are, among other things, a violation of Riley's First Amendment rights.
Herron also questioned the staff report's opinion that Riley's presidency of the Florida Association of Realtors constitutes a "contractual agreement" with the association.
Herron and Riley planned to attend Friday's hearing, and Herron said they may speak on their behalf.
A decision of the nine-member Ethics Commission can be appealed in court, Stillman said.
Riley faces Ed Hooper in the Sept. 5 Republican primary election. The winner will face Democratic candidate Candice Jovan in the Nov. 7 general election.
Republican Kimberly Berfield holds the seat in District 50, which covers areas of Largo, Clearwater and Safety Harbor. But Berfield has set her sights on becoming a state senator.
If the final decision is made that Riley's holding both posts would pose a conflict of interest, Hooper said, she then would have to answer one question.
"Do I want to be president of the Florida Association of Realtors, or do I want to be a state representative?" he said.
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4174.
[Last modified July 24, 2006, 20:43:29]
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