- The Florida Commission on Ethics dropped a complaint against Nikki Fried, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, regarding improper income disclosure.
- Fried’s defense team acknowledged that her financial disclosures contained inaccuracies and omissions but stated that Fried was not aware of the incomplete forms.
- During the hearing, concerns were raised about Fried’s ownership of Ignite Florida, LLC and the lack of explanation for the increase in her financial assets from 2017 to 2018.
- But the Commission noted that some of the outstanding questions raised on Friday were not part of the original complaint.
By voice vote with only one notable dissent, the Florida Commission on Ethics today dropped a complaint filed against former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is now Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. The complaint, filed by Leon County Republican Party Chairman Evan Power, a Tallahassee resident, alleged that Fried failed to properly disclose her income as required by Florida law.
Fried’s defense team acknowledged that her financial disclosures had been filed with inaccurate and incomplete information, but stated that Fried was not aware the forms she filed were incomplete. Her attorney, Benedict P. Kuehne, said that Fried was not aware of the incomplete financial disclosure but took immediate steps to correct the oversight as soon as it was brought to her attention when tax records were made available.
In fact, Fried filed amendments shortly after The Capitolist identified significant discrepancies and omissions on her mandatory financial disclosures filed in 2017 and 2018.
During the hearing on Friday, Ed Moore, one of the nine Ethics Commissioners, asked Kuehne if Fried was the owner of Ignite Florida, LLC, the company that Fried used to shield her ownership stake in San Felasco Nurseries before transferring ownership into a blind trust called Ignite Holdings, LLC.
State records show that Fried was the sole registered agent of Igniting Florida, LLC, the sole member, and the sole controlling manager of the company.
“Igniting Florida, was an LLC owned by a number of shareholders… not Nikki Fried,” Kuehne replied.
“She was not an owner at all?” Moore asked.
“No. She was a consultant for the company,” said Kuehne.
But according to Florida’s business registration website, Sunbiz, there is no record of any names tied to Igniting Florida, LLC, except Nikki Fried.
Moore also expressed concern about a lack of explanation from Fried about the fact that financial assets were listed on her 2018 financial disclosure that weren’t on her 2017 disclosure, without explanation for where the new assets came from.
“When I read through the complaint, and then when I read through the financial disclosure forms, there were items on the second form that were not on the first form from the prior year,” Moore noted. “there didn’t seem to be an explanation of increasing income, it just baffled me…”
But Moore also expressed frustration that outstanding questions about Fried’s unexplained income were not made part of the original complaint, and a lawyer for the commission said that Commissioners couldn’t dive too deeply into new questions of Fried’s attorney because the proceeding on Friday was not an evidentiary hearing.
The Commission ultimately voted to drop the complaint, with Moore the only member to vote against dismissal.