Fasano targeted in ethics complaint

A New Port Richey man says the senator misused his position.

By DAVID DeCAMP, Times Staff Writer
Published November 19, 2007

A New Port Richey man said he has filed a complaint against state Sen. Mike Fasano with the Florida Ethics Commission, alleging Fasano misused his position in a flap over state's driver safety handbooks.

Ronald Rice, a Pasco County Democratic Party activist, said he wants an investigation into how Fasano, R-New Port Richey, changed the way Florida hires a company to print drivers manuals.

This year, Fasano, a committee chairman, inserted language in a bill that stopped National Safety Commission, a Ponte Vedra Beach company, from exclusively printing the manuals for free with ads for its driver safety courses.

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the Fasano provision, spawning a court fight by driving schools. National Safety Commission had won the job in an uncontested public bid in 2005.

Rice's complaint, which he provided to the Times, says Fasano misused his position and had a voting conflict because of Fasano's business ties, among other miscues.

According to his financial disclosure form last year, Fasano invested $25,000 in Suncoast Creamery, an ice cream shop company run by lobbyist Ed Collins of Trinity. Collins lobbied for a rival of National Safety Commission, Florida Providers for Traffic Safety. A former Fasano aide, Shawn Foster, also lobbied for the rivals.

But Fasano called the accusations a "frivolous" attempt to stop him from investigating a bad contract.

"Guess what? It's an election year," said Fasano, up for re-election next November, though he had not read the complaint Sunday.

Rice said his complaint isn't about partisan politics. "I expect a higher level of performance, higher ethical standards," Rice said.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or 800 333-7505, ext. 6232.