Reporting Tim Kephart
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Eleven separate ethics charges were filed by the state of Florida against Republican U.S. Representative David Rivera Wednesday morning, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.
Rivera, according to the Herald, is accused of taking money as a legislator “when he knew or … should have known it was given to influence his vote or official action.”
The charges center around using campaign money for non-campaign related expenses, double billing the state for travel expenses that were already covered by his campaign, and for failing to report the proceeds of a secret agreement with Flagler Dog Track to help pass the slots initiative in Miami-Dade County for $1 million.
The secret agreement was first uncovered by CBS4 News and led to a lengthy criminal investigation against Rivera. Earlier this year, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle decided against bringing criminal charges against Rivera and deferred the case to the state Ethics Commission.
“The (Ethics) Commission found probable cause to believe that U.S. Congressman David Rivera, former member of the Florida House of Representatives, may have violated Florida ethics laws in 11 instances while serving in the Florida House of Representatives,” the Ethics Commission reported, according to the Herald.
The Ethics Commission said it found probabl cause to believe Rivera received income from Southwest Florida Enterprises, Inc. which he knew or should have known was given to influence his vote or official action.
In addition, the Ethics Comission said Rivera’s contract with “SFEI through Millenium Marketing, Inc would create a frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and his public duties.”
The Commission said they found probable cause that Rivera “misused his public position by using campaign fund for non-campaign related expenditure” and they found that he “failed to report or did not properly report income, stocks and bonds, or secondary incomes sources on his disclosure forms from 2005-2009.
Rivera told the Herald Wednesday, “These allegations are false and will be dismissed shortly.”
The charges are separate from a federal investigation into Rivera. The Miami Herald has reported extensively on the federal investigation as to whether Rivera bankrolled a Democratic opponent in the 2012 election.
According to the Herald, Justin Lamar Sternad, whose failed campaign is at the heart of the federal grand jury investigation, told the FBI that Rivera was secretly behind his run for Congress. Sternad said that his campaign manager, Ana Sol Alliegro, acted as the conduit between the campaign and Rivera, according to the Herald.
Rivera plans to fight the charges, but if he is found guilty, the only penalty he will face is a fine.
Rivera’s Democratic challenger, Joe Garcia, released a statement about Rivera’s ethics charges Wednesday afternoon that said:
“Mr. Rivera’s 11 charges of breaking the law is embarrassing to our entire community. Enough is enough. It is time for us to move forward in a positive way. Hopefully, after Nov. 6, we can turn the page on Mr. Rivera’s scandals and get back to helping the people of South Florida.”
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)