Miami-Dade County prosecutors recently questioned state Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Coral Gables, as part of a criminal investigation into her legal residency, a source close to the case confirmed Friday to the Miami Herald.
The investigation has taken a back seat to proceedings under way at the Republican-controlled Florida House, where a special bipartisan committee found probable cause earlier this week to move forward with an inquiry that could result in Baez's possible expulsion from the chamber.
Baez's meeting with prosecutors was first reported by Politico. The investigations into her residency began after the Herald questioned in May whether Baez lived in her House district, as required by the Florida Constitution. Baez and her attorneys -- Mark Herron in Tallahassee and Ben Kuehne in Miami -- have said she has complied with the requirement that she, as a legislator, be "an elector and resident of the district from which elected."
But the House panel found Tuesday that Baez likely violated the residency law by living in her Coral Gables home in District 112 -- even after having gotten elected last November to represent neighboring District 114.
In May, Baez told the Herald she kept her home -- the one listed on her driver's license and where she had a homestead exemption -- but also rented an apartment in District 114. But the apartment's owners also lived there, and maintained a homestead exemption. After the Herald report, Baez obtained a lease for a second apartment in District 114, House investigators found.
Kuehne told Politico the House -- and not Democratic State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle -- has jurisdiction over Baez's residency.
"The fact that the state House has initiated action is certainly a good indication that the state House is the one that should be handling this matter," he said. "This should not be anything that any governmental agency other than the legislative body looks into."
In June, a spokesman for the state attorney's office declined to comment to the Herald on whether they'd opened an investigation into Baez, based on whether she had unlawfully maintained her homestead exemption. At the time, it appeared Baez's 2016 exemption was proper, and she still had time to file or make changes to her 2017 exemption.
Photo credit: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times