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Ethics panel waives fine against Ben Parks

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The Florida Commission on Ethics has waived an $800 fine against former lobbyist Ben Parks.

Commissioners made the decision at their meeting Friday.

Parks had been automatically fined $50 a day for late-filing his third-quarter lobbying compensation reports last year, according to a proposed order.

State law provides for a one-time fine waiver for a late report, but Parks already used that in 2013, the document explains.

On Friday, commissioners were swayed by the string of misfortunes the 62-year-old said he suffered in recent months.

He suffers from “depression, anxiety and high blood pressure” and his home had been burglarized last November, causing a loss of his documents.

Parks also said his bank account was frozen this May after fraudulent checks had been written on his account. Those and other reasons constitute “unusual circumstances” that merited a waiver of the fine, staff said.

He recently pleaded no contest to a charge that he ran a drug house out of his Tallahassee home, according to Leon County court dockets.

Other charges related to illegal drug possession were referred to the county’s confidential drug court for disposition, records show.

Parks, the former longtime lobbyist for the Florida Farm Bureau, was arrested in late February with seven others after neighbors complained that as many as nine people appeared to be living in his five-bedroom house in the upscale Ox Bottom neighborhood.

While searching Parks’ home, police found various drugs and paraphernalia and described it as “a communal living setting.”

A neighbor previously told FloridaPolitics.com Parks was allowing recently released jail and prison inmates to stay at the home.

Parks, a graduate of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, did not register to lobby during the 2016 Legislative Session, according to state records. He also previously represented Florida Crystals Corp.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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