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Commission on Ethics dismisses complaint made against Hillsborough Property Appraiser candidate Todd Jones

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Florida Commission on Ethics has dismissed a complaint filed last month against Republican property appraiser candidate Todd Jones.

Former Hillsborough County Democratic chair Elizabeth Belcher made two assertions in her complaint.

One was that Jones had left blank the spaces for listing assets and describing business affiliations in his financial disclosure form that he originally completed in June. She alleged that Jones had failed to accurate disclose assets on his “CE Form 6” financial disclosure for 2015. Jones says he received bad legal advice from the attorney he was working with at the time, who confused the requirement of form 1 to form 6.

Upon being contacted by a Tampa Bay Times reporter that he had left blank part of the form, Jones says that he then immediately filed a new form 6 in early August with attachments detailing his assets. According to Section 112.3144 (8) (a), the Commission on Ethics considers an amendment financial disclosure form filed before September 1 of the year the form needs to be sent as the original filing. They further stated that his proactive effort to correct the form with additional attachments “indicates a desire to satisfy the transparency requirement.”

Belcher’s second charge in her complaint said that Jones’ additional attachments did not describe his businesses, RealAdvice LLC and RealAdvice PA, and listed no income from them. Jones had said at the time that the income of his businesses was reflected on the form as income from other companies, some of which was in payments to his businesses.

The Commission dismissed that complaint as well, saying that those allegations failed to violate state statute, “as the complaint does not substantively allege that any of the three corporations provided the requisite amount of income to the Respondent to require disclosure or that any of the corporations were of the type of business required to be disclosed in Part E of the Form.”

The report adds that the complaint process is “not designed” to serve as a general review for disclosure filings. and that Belcher’s doubt or skepticism about the accuracy of Jones’ filing….”is not enough to trigger the Commission’s investigative jurisdiction absent any factual allegations that the disclosure was required.”

Belcher was disappointed upon hearing about the timing and the content of report, labeling it “a sham.”

Jones considers the whole process “dirty politics,” saying that the complaint was supposed to be confidential until it was resolved “in order to prevent the kind of political shenanigans that have actually been played out.”

Belcher disputed that charge, insisting that Jones “was the one who was breaking the law.”

Jones is running against Democrat Bob Henriquez in the property appraiser’s race on Nov. 8.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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