A Democratic donor and supporter of congressional candidate Joe Garcia plans to file a lawsuit Thursday to try to remove Republican rival David Rivera from the Nov. 2 ballot.
The complaint, to be filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, seeks to disqualify Rivera as a federal candidate based on financial disclosure forms Rivera filed while serving as state representative.
Garcia has a news conference planned at 11 a.m. at the downtown Miami courthouse. We originally reported the lawsuit would be filed by Garcia, but it will actually be filed by William Barzee, a Miami attorney who filed a state ethics complaint against Rivera last week.
For seven years, Rivera, an eight-year lawmaker, listed work as an "international development consultant'' for the U.S. Agency for International Development on his disclosure forms. But USAID officials told The Miami Herald that they had no record of Rivera or his company.
Rivera later said he worked as a subcontractor to other USAID vendors, though he would not disclose the names of the contractors who hired him, saying he had promised them confidentiality.
On Friday, Rivera amended his disclosure forms to remove any mention of USAID, saying he was not required to list any additional income from consulting work between 2003 and 2009. He has refused to elaborate further, only saying his consulting work did not meet the criteria for disclosure.
Under the state's disclosure rules, lawmakers are required to report the sources of any income exceeding $1,000. In addition, lawmakers must list the names of any clients contributing more than 10 percent to their private businesses.
Barzee's ethics complaint, with the Florida Commission on Ethics, accused Rivera of hiding his income in the annual disclosure forms. Barzee, who also donated $500 to Rivera in 2008, has said he also wrote a letter to the U.S. attorney's office in Miami, seeking a criminal investigation.
In filing the suit, Barzee may seek to replicate the case of Jim Norman, a Republican state Senate candidate from the Tampa area who was thrown off the ballot last week by a Tallahassee judge for failing to disclose a $500,000 gift in his financial disclosure forms.
In that case, the court found that state candidates may be disqualified from seeking office for failing to fully disclose their finances. The judge ordered Norman's name removed from the ballot after concluding that Norman concealed his family's interest in an Arkansas house, bought with money given to him by a friend.
"Allowing Defendant Jim Norman to remain on the ballot would be an affirmation by this court that such a bold, intentional and material misrepresentation to the public is acceptable under the law; and this court will not do so," wrote Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford.
Norman, a Hillsborough County Commissioner, is now appealing Fulford's decision.
--SCOTT HIAASEN AND PATRICIA MAZZEI