Article Courtesy of The Miami
July 11, 2016
A Tallahassee appeals court on Wednesday upheld an
ethics censure against former state Rep. David Rivera, a Miami
Republican who is running again for the Florida House, now as a newly
The First District Court of Appeal “summarily” rejected Rivera’s
contentionthat the $57,821.96 fine recommended last yearby an
administrative law judge was improper due to “procedural errors” by the
Florida Commission on Ethics.
“Rivera did not challenge the ethical violations found
by the Commission and we find no merit in the due
process claims he raised on appeal,” the court wrote.
However, the court left open the possibility for Rivera
to sue again — if the House speaker ultimately imposes
One of Rivera’s arguments had been that it’s
unconstitutional for the speaker to discipline a former
House member. Florida law requires the speaker — not the
ethics commission or administrative judge — to penalize
a lawmaker found in violation of ethics rules. The court
said it couldn’t rule on that question until if and when
the speaker fines Rivera, because the disciplinary
process won’t be “complete” until the speaker takes
“gives the Speaker the power to impose penalties, but no
statute requires the Speaker to accept or otherwise act
on the Commission’s recommendation,” the court wrote.
“And, here, there is no indication in the record that
the Speaker intends to take disciplinary action against
Rivera since he is no longer a member of the House. As a
result, any ruling that we might provide at this stage
of the proceeding on the constitutional challenge raised
by Rivera would amount to an improper advisory opinion.”
Rep. David Rivera speaks to the Miami media in 2012, defending
himself on ethics charges filed by the state.
Rivera’s attorney, Leonard Collins, who’s also a former state
representative, indicated he might find a way to challenge the law’s
constitutionality even without action by the speaker. It’s unclear if
such a challenge would involve asking the appeals court to reconsider
whether Rivera’s claim is timely, for example, or trying to get the
Florida Supreme Court to hear the case.
“The court only determined it would not rule on the constitutionality
question at this time, but we are pleased it also did not reject our
argument,” Collins said in an email to the Miami Herald. “Accordingly,
we consider this a significant victory that we will continue to pursue
Speaker Steve Crisafulli of Merritt Island served with Rivera from
2008-10. Incoming Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes wasn’t
elected until 2010, the year Rivera was term-limited out of office — but
Corcoran worked years earlier as chief of staff for then-Speaker Marco
Rubio. Rubio named Rivera his budget chief, and the two men used to own
a Tallahassee home together.
A Crisafulli spokeswoman said the office would review the ruling with
House counsel before weighing in. Rivera’s is not the only ethics case
pending before lawmakers.
As a state legislator more than six years ago, Rivera failed to properly
disclose his income and double-billed taxpayers for travel by accepting
a state reimbursement for a trip paid for by his political campaign.
Rivera was later elected to Congress, where he served from 2010-12. He’s
once again a candidate for the state House, where his latest financial
disclosure forms have raised questions about how Rivera has acquired new
wealthin his three years out of public office.
A separate, federal criminal investigation identified Rivera as a
“co-conspirator” in an illegal campaign-finance scheme Rivera is
suspected of orchestrating in the 2012 congressional election. He has
not been charged.