TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA) – After the Florida Supreme Court rejected lighter penalties, a Miami-Dade County judge could face a 30-day suspension without pay, a $5,000 fine and a public reprimand after an investigation into free hotel stays in Miami Beach, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
An investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and Judge Maria Ortiz reached an agreement on the revised penalties, according to a filing Monday.
The Supreme Court has ultimate authority to discipline judges and in June rejected a recommendation that Ortiz pay a $5,000 fine and receive a public reprimand.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which oversees investigators. The case centers on allegations that Ortiz failed to properly report hotel stays on financial-disclosure forms.
It also is related to criminal charges that were filed against Ortiz’s husband, Mariano Fernandez, who served as director of the Building Department for the city of Miami Beach, according to documents filed at the Supreme Court.
Fernandez was accused of helping a hotel company with permitting problems and receiving free accommodations.
The filing Monday at the Supreme Court said Ortiz gave sworn testimony that “her husband managed the family finances, and that, at the time of the trips, she was unaware that they were provided free of charge.” It also said Ortiz apologized for her misconduct.
“Judge Ortiz also agrees that she failed to make reasonable inquiry into her financial circumstances, specifically the funding of the 2015-2016 trips, even after the State Attorney’s Office informed her that there might be irregularities,” said the filing, known as a stipulation.
“In addition to that, she did not file amended financial disclosures at that point, although she subsequently did file appropriate amended disclosures during the JQC (Judicial Qualifications Commission) investigation.”