In a confidential session today, the Florida Ethics Commission held a probable cause hearing for an ethics complaint filed by School Board Member Jennifer Jenkins.
The complaint stemmed from a story we broke exactly one year ago today where text messages between Fine and West Melbourne City Councilman John Dittmore revealed that Fine threatened to withhold funding from the Special Olympics and flood mitigation projects for the citizens of West Melbourne because he wasn’t invited to a fundraiser sponsored by the West Melbourne Police and Chik-fil-a. Jennifer Jenkins was invited to attend and subsequently raised the most money of any other participant.
Additionally, when we did a public records request for the communications between Fine and Dittmore, Fine instructed him not to release the messages which is a violation of Florida’s public records laws. The West Melbourne City Attorney advised Dittmore that he must release the records, and he did so. After the messages were released, Fine made several attempts to get the attorney fired. He is now the attorney for Brevard County Commission.
Dittmore attempted to smooth things over with Fine in order to secure the funding that was already approved, but Fine stated he would have added to the veto list. He invited Fine to come to the event, but Fine stated it was too late and that he wouldn’t go “anywhere that whore is at,” referring to Jenkins.
The Assistant Attorney General’s office recommended to the Ethics Commission that they not find probable cause. The Commission however, overturned that recommendation and found there was enough evidence that Representative Fine broke Florida ethics laws by abuse or misuse of his office.
Representative Fine can now challenge the findings before a judge, or attempt to work out a settlement with the commission for his penalty.
Representative Fine is currently a candidate for Florida Senate, but also claims that he has been asked by the Governor to apply to become the President of Florida Atlantic University. He states that he is strongly considering it. It’s not clear how the outcome of these ethics violations may impact him.
Now that probable cause has been found, the entire case is now public, and records will become available next Wednesday.
Additionally, Fine will soon be facing another ethics complaint for nearly identical circumstances where he has now withheld millions of dollars to the city of Palm Bay, over a personal vendetta against Councilman Kenny Johnson. The funding he withdrew included funds for the Police and Fire Departments, the widening of St. John Heritage Parkway, and funding for septic to sewer connections to save the Indian River Lagoon.
Fine lied to Fox35 in an interview when asked about this saying he didn’t know what they were talking about. However, it’s all public record.