Rep. Dane Eagle target of ethics complaint from political rival

in Uncategorized by

State Rep. Dane Eagle has become the target of an ethics complaint lodged by a political opponent over a proposal from last session.

Jim Roach filed the grievance on Monday with the state Commission on Ethics, asking the board to look into whether HB 593, a bill Eagle introduced, created a conflict of interest.

The bill had died in the House Community Affairs committee.

Eagle faces Republicans Roach, Terry Cramer and Brandon Ivey in his re-election effort in House District 77.

HB 593 would have given $250,000 annually to the Future Builders of America program, a group sponsored by the Florida Builders’ Association. Funding would come from construction surcharges.

Dane Eagle once served on the Lee County Building Industry Association as director of development. Since then, he had resigned.

Both the county and the state BIA are members of the National Association of Home Builders. The state group donated  $1,000  to Eagle’s campaign since August, according to Division of Elections records.

“I am not a lawyer,” Roach told Heather Wysocki of News-Press.com, “but it appears that Rep. Eagle sponsored and voted on a bill that provided a substantial gain to the parent organization of his employer without disclosing the relationship or filing the required memorandum.”

Florida law states that legislators “may not vote on any matter that the officer knows would inure to his or her special private gain or loss,” and instructs them to make “every reasonable effort to disclose the nature of his or her interest as a public record.”

Although he has not seen the complaint, Eagle is certain there was no conflict.

In an email to the News-Press.com, he said: “As the Lee Building Industry Association is autonomous, operates under its own board of directors, and is not a subsidiary of the Florida Home Builders Association or the nonprofit Future Builders of America, I don’t believe there is a parent/subsidiary conflict of interest, but we will certainly look into that matter.”

Eagle added that Roach’s complaint was “purely political.”

Roach insists the complaint was not a political move, but admitted that it could be seen as such. As Pine Island Chamber of Commerce president, Roach encounters many homebuilders, and he said many of them were concerned by Eagle’s proposal to use construction surcharges to benefit the Future Builders of America.

“It’s more important for me to have that looked at openly and transparently than whatever it may cost me politically,” Roach said.

The Commission on Ethics will decide if Roach’s complaint warrants further investigation. If so, a state investigator will dig deeper and either dismiss it or suggest review by the full commission.

An automatic investigation is launched when there is a complaint from sitting state, according to state law. But when citizens file a complaint, the state then decides whether an investigation is justified.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.