An administrative law judge is calling for Florida's ethics commission to find that former state Rep. David Rivera improperly received state travel reimbursements and did not adequately disclose financial information.
Judge W. David Watkins issued a 37-page recommended order Friday that delved into Rivera's personal finances and his use of political campaign funds. The recommendation goes to the state Commission on Ethics, which will make a final determination.
Rivera, R-Miami, served in the state House from 2002 to 2010, before getting elected to Congress. He served one term in Washington and lost a re-election bid to Democrat Joe Garcia amid numerous ethics-related questions. Rivera is running this year to try to regain the Congressional District 26 seat.
Watkins wrote that Rivera, on numerous occasions, received reimbursements from the state for travel expenses that were paid by his campaign accounts. The judge wrote that Rivera commingled personal expenses, political expenses and state House expenses on multiple credit cards, rather than having a designated credit card for his official legislative duties.
"Respondent (Rivera) personally authorized the travel expenses which were charged to his credit cards,'' Watkins wrote. "He also personally signed and submitted the travel reimbursement requests to the state of Florida. Finally, Respondent also personally signed the campaign account checks used to pay off his credit card balances. Respondent individually, and without the participation of anyone else, personally orchestrated this sequence of events. Thus, Respondent knowingly and intentionally received travel reimbursements from the state of Florida to which he was not entitled."
But in a document filed in the case, Rivera's attorney disputed that the lawmaker did anything improper.
"Advocate (the ethics commission's attorney) did not present any evidence that Respondent filed any false travel reimbursements with the state while serving as a member of the Florida House, nor did she present any evidence that Respondent received reimbursements for state-related travel that should not have been reimbursed,'' said the document, filed in April and outlining Rivera's positions in the case.
Watkins also recommended that the ethics commission find that Rivera did not fully disclose his financial interests on forms for the years 2005 through 2009 and in a form that was required to be filed after Rivera left the state House. In part, Watkins wrote that it was shown "for reporting years 2005 through 2009, Respondent had income well in excess of what he reported."
But in the document filed in April, Rivera's attorney argued, in part, that the former lawmaker "simply left out the details of certain assets" and that he took action later to resolve the issues.
Photo: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times