In a closed-door session, the Florida Commission on Ethics ruled in favor of Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, after an investigation into whether he misused his position to benefit a company that allegedly funded a grant awarded to his personal business venture.
The nine-member panel also decided there was no probable cause concerning an allegation that Grant had a conflict when he voted on legislation that related to excise taxes on phosphate mining.
The decision was announced Wednesday after the commission's investigator spent more than a year examining a complicated case stemming from complaints filed by Henry Kuhlman, a retired military pilot from Hardee County.
"My reaction is that they missed the mark and politics are involved," Kuhlman said.
Kuhlman has been aggressively trying to get Grant and others to account for about $2.6 million Hardee County awarded to the representative's startup company, LifeSync, starting in 2011. The money is from a pot of $42 million the phosphate giant Mosaic gave the county in exchange for mining rights. Hardee officials handed out the money, expected to produce jobs, which didn't happen in the case of LifeSync.
Kuhlman says that months after LifeSync Technologies was awarded the Mosaic money, Grant co-sponsored "HB 7087, a bill that became law after the 2012 session and benefited the Mosaic company.
Grant was one of 17 representatives to sponsor the bill. In the investigative report, Grant said he was a co-sponsor because of a provision which provided funding for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute from a portion of the cigarette tax collections. He also maintained that he was not involved in the phosphate tax portion of the bill.
Also at the hearing ...
The ethics commission also announced Wednesday that at its July 25th meeting, the panel did find probable cause to believe that Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, violated disclosure laws by filing 2011 and 2012 financial disclosure forms with an inaccurate net worth and assets. The matter is pending and will either be decided by a hearing or settlement agreement.
Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee reporter Michael Van Sickler contributed to this article.