Despite State Attorney Angela Corey’s methodology having been the subject of public debate even before she took office, news of yet another questionable exploit has raised the ire of many.
On December 21 the anticipated festive spirit of her office’s Christmas soiree was somewhat soured when she, along with Mike Weinstein and Mark Borello, chose to take advantage of those in attendance by having them fill out campaign petitions for their respective re-election bids. Many of those at the function felt as though they were being cajoled and felt uncomfortable, given that they were under the impression they were there to celebrate the festive season and the year’s end. Some even worried that their jobs may be in jeopardy should they fail to comply.
It has been suggested by Corey that it was to avoid having to pay a campaign filing fee, yet some see their motivation as being more specious. Whatever the reason for this dubious initiative, the legality of it has understandably confounded many an observer. It is, at the very least, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Florida Statute 104.31 reads, in part:
104.31 Political activities of state, county, and municipal officers and employees.—
(1) No officer or employee of the state, or of any county or municipality thereof, except as hereinafter exempted from provisions hereof, shall:
(a) Use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof.
The penalty for breaching the aforementioned statute reads thusly;
(3) Any person violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
By attempting to circumvent the payment of the campaign filing fee, Corey has breached Florida Statute 112.313 (6) which reads;
112.313 Standards of conduct for public officers, employees of agencies, and local government attorneys.—
(1) DEFINITION.—As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, the term “public officer” includes any person elected or appointed to hold office in any agency, including any person serving on an advisory body.
(6) MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION.—No public officer, employee of an agency, or local government attorney shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself, herself, or others. This section shall not be construed to conflict with s. 104.31.
So, how should Corey be reprimanded and what, if any, penalty should be imposed? That which was meted out to C. David Weed, Executive Assistant Public Defender for the 11th Judicial District of Florida whose four violations of Statute 104.31 (1) (a) saw him fined $2000 ($500 on each of the four counts) or something harsher? Florida Statute 112.52 reads, in part;
112.52 Removal of a public official when a method is not otherwise provided.—
(1) When a method for removal from office is not otherwise provided by the State Constitution or by law, the Governor may by executive order suspend from office an elected or appointed public official, by whatever title known, who is indicted or informed against for commission of any felony, or for any misdemeanor arising directly out of his or her official conduct or duties, and may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension, not to extend beyond the term.
It is interesting to note that Statute 112.52 should also be applicable to yet another indiscretion of Corey’s on December 6 of 2011. For how long can the region’s highest credentialed enforcer of the law continue to avoid disciplinary action for her indiscretions? Is this the person whom citizens of Duval, Nassau and Clay Counties should be re-electing when her flagrant disregard for the law is becoming habitual?
Complaints regarding Corey’s behavior can be filed by either completing this form, contacting the Commission on Ethics at (850) 488-7864 or by mail at Post Office Drawer 15709, Tallahassee, Florida 32317-5709. Additionally, a petition to have her removed from office can be signed here.