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    Ethics report: Ex-lawmaker misused money

    The ethics commission says ex-state Rep. Willie Logan used taxpayer money to pay JCPenney and Burdines bills.

    By LUCY MORGAN

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published October 24, 2001


    TALLAHASSEE -- Former state Rep. Willie Logan used money provided by taxpayers for office expenses to pay off his bills at JCPenney and Burdines, rent costumes, donate to charities and raise cash for himself, according to an investigation by the Florida Ethics Commission.

    In a report released Tuesday, the commission brought formal charges accusing Logan of abusing his position as a legislator by wrongfully using the money allocated to him to pay for a state office in Opa-locka.

    Logan faces a maximum fine of $10,000 and possible public censure if found guilty. A lawyer for Logan, Jane W. Moscowitz of Miami, insists in a letter to the commission that Logan "never received a cent to which he was not entitled."

    Logan served in the House from 1982 to 2000, when he left to run for the U.S. Senate. The charges involve allowances of $1,500 to $1,600 a month that he was paid by the state for office expenses during 1998 and 1999. Legislators are required to account for each expenditure from such allowances.

    Some of the charges stem from payments to a community development agency Logan founded. He reported paying monthly office rent totaling $11,395 to the Opa-Locka Community Development Agency, but agency records indicate Logan only paid $2,179. In addition, the agency loaned Logan $63,000 in September 1999, two months before he made an $11,000 payment to cover the back debt.

    In addition to the rent discrepancies, investigators found that Logan actually paid $1,352 for utilities when he claimed to have spent $3,215 and claimed at least $4,000 more than he should have for telephone expenses.

    When Logan was asked about the discrepancies, he provided canceled checks that got him into more trouble. The checks showed additional expenditures for items that did not qualify for reimbursement, commission investigators determined.

    Among them were checks made to pay off debts at department stores, donations to charities, flowers and $4,050 written for cash. When Logan was asked about the improper expenses, his attorney produced a list of additional receipts indicating that Logan spent $5,216 on mileage not claimed, as well as other expenditures that would have been legitimate.

    Among the items Logan listed was $200 paid to Spy Shops for a sweep to determine whether any listening devices were in the office in August 1998.

    Commission investigators say all of the additional expenses do not match the total amount of money Logan received from the state during 1998 and 1999. Mark Herron, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents Logan, said he will seek a formal hearing.

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    From the Times state desk