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Ethics commission finds Sachs left off condo from disclosure form but drops complaint

The Florida Commission on Ethics has found probable cause to conclude that Sen. Maria Sachs failed to properly disclose a Tallahassee condominium on her annual financial disclosure forms for three years but, because Sachs amended her forms to correct the omission, the commission chose not to pursue any further action. 

The complaint alleging  alleging that Sachs violated state financial disclosure law by failing to include her Tallahassee condominium on her annual report for three years was filed by Palm Beach County Republican Party chairman Sid Dinerstein on Oct. 15.

Sachs, a Democrat, was embroiled in a hotly contested race against former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale at the time, which she won. They were forced to run against each other because of redistricting.

Sachs amended her net worth forms for 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, in March of this year. Her 2009 form reads: "My Tallahassee condominium was inadvertently omitted from the listing of assets as was my legislative salary, both of which are matters of public record. Inclusion of Tallahassee condominium has result in an adjustment in the net worth computation."

Sachs said that she did not believe she had to report the property because the value of her Tallahassee condo had plummeted to below the cost of the mortgage. Her husband, Peter Sachs, had purchased the property for $330,000 in 2008 and obtained a mortgage for $264,000 to buy it. A year later, the value of the property had dropped to $186,000, she said.

Sachs told investigators that because of the drop in value, and because her husband was the sole owner of the property, she did not believe she had an obligation to report it.  After the complaint was filed and the Ethics Commission decided to investigate, Sachs amended her financial disclosure reports for 2008 through 2011 to include the property. Her updated net worth: $1,053,534 in 2011.

Meanwhile, Sachs remains under fire for renting a Fort Lauderdale condominium from the daughter of her long time friend and Broward political activist, Judy Stern, and using the site as proof of residency in her district. Sachs and her husband also own a house in Boca Raton, just outside the boundaries of District 34 which she represents.

In April, the conservative web site, MediaTrackers.org. sent a reporter to visit Sachs' condo and was told by a neighbor that no one had lived in the unit for six months. 

Stern told the Herald/Times that she has received rent checks as payment for the apartment and Sachs has said she pays $950 a month. 

In a statement last April, Sachs said: “I have fully met the requirements of the law regarding legal residency in District 34.” 

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