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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – With Chief Justice Charles Canady describing it as a “sad day,” the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a Miami-Dade County judge after an investigation into free hotel stays in Miami Beach, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

Judge Maria Ortiz stood quietly as Canady read the reprimand, which stemmed from a probe by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. Ortiz also agreed in a settlement to pay a $5,000 fine and to be suspended for 90 days without pay.

“As rule enforcers, we must be rule followers,” Canady said.

The case centered on allegations that Ortiz failed to properly report hotel stays in 2015 and 2016 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 court records.

Fernandez was accused of helping a hotel company with permitting problems and receiving free accommodations. Ortiz acknowledged in the settlement, known as a stipulation, that “while believing her husband was appropriately managing the household finances, she failed to take reasonable steps to stay apprised of her financial circumstances, including failing to make specific inquiry into how the trips were paid for.”

The Supreme Court approved the stipulation in January.

(©2019 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)


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