Ethics investigation of Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen undisclosed checking account goes forward

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An initial review of Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen’s finances shows the Fort Myers Republican failed to disclose assets two years ago.

On Friday, the Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that Fitzenhagen failed to disclose financial assets as a candidate for the state House and after the election.

“It was an honest mistake,” Edward Metzger, Fitzenhagen’s aide, told Ashley Smith of News-Press.com. “She wouldn’t want to make it again.”

During her 2011 candidacy, Fitzenhagen did not disclose as an asset a joint bank account shared with her husband with about $22,000. In 2012, she also failed to divulge the same account, then worth about $3,800, according to the ethics investigation report.

In the course of the investigation, Fitzenhagen acknowledged her net worth in both 2011 and 2012 was incorrect. Her net worth was under the $215,000 she reported, due to the failure to add in the value of household goods.

Metzger said Fitzenhagen did not think a checking account must be reported as an asset, and that household furniture should be listed separately.

“She didn’t understand the forms completely,” he said, “and when confronted by the ethics commission, she immediately revealed it was a mistake and was apologetic.”

After the commission determines probable cause, the nine-member group then determines if there was a violation of the law and what penalties are recommended.

With a net worth increasing this year from $544,389 to $598,787, Fitzenhagen has become one of Southwest Florida’s wealthiest politicians. Her re-election is virtually assured, since a write-in candidate is her only opposition.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.