Faced with the exodus of his legal team, David Rivera tried to delay a Florida Commission on Ethics case that found he violated the state's rules for elected officials.
But on Friday, when told of his latest maneuver in a two-year-old case, the Commission unanimously rejected further delay, recommending instead that administrative law judge David Watkins determine penalties for the violations by Rivera, who appeared late at the hearing and missed the discussion on his case.
"It's insulting how this has happened," said Commission on Ethics Vice Chair Stanley Weston.
"Denying this sends a message that we're over it," said Commission on Ethics board member Matthew Carlucci.
Rivera, who served in Congress between 2010 and 2012, was found in violation of seven instances of Florida's Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees while he served in the state House, including accepting state reimbursement for travel already paid for by campaign accounts and not accurately disclosing his income.
Two of his lawyers quit representing him in July, and the third quit in August. On Thursday, at 4:43 p.m., Tallahassee attorney Leonard Collins filed a motion for continuance that had missed the deadline for Friday's meeting.
Collins said he was hired that day, Thursday, to make the motion.
"(Rivera) respectfully requests a continuance so that his counsel can carry out the above referenced review of the record and necessary legal research in order to properly prepare to address these issues before the Florida Commission on Ethics," Collins wrote in the motion.
But for members of the commission, some of whom seemed gobsmacked by the request, it didn't help Rivera's cause that Collins wasn't there to argue the case.
"If this was so important, I can't see why he can't be here," Weston said.
The vote was quick and the board went ahead with the rest of the agenda. The Rivera case, which had been moved up on the agenda that morning, was now headed to Watkins.
A half-hour after the vote, however, Collins appeared, and wasn't too pleased.
"They took it out of order," Collins said, explaining his tardiness. "This was No. 5 on the docket."
Collins, who works at the Broad and Cassel law firm, remained sitting in the audience watching a full slate of unrelated cases, hoping to make yet another last-minute appeal.
"They know they're wrong," he said.
Joining him minutes later in the audience was none other than Rivera, hoping that, yet again, he could find some way to delay the case.
"I can understand why if someone is here they would take (a case) out of order," Rivera said, who came to the hearing after seeing on TV that his case was already up. "What I don't understand is why they would do it if someone's not here."
Collins, the attorney, interrupted.
"I think we may come up," he said. Asked how he would convince the Commission to take it up again, Collins demurred, saying only "I don't know."
During a five-minute break, Commission Chair Linda McKee Robison was asked if the board would reconsider the case and she shook her head 'no'.
It had been a full meeting. A 10 a.m., the Commission awarded former Gov. Reubin Askew, who died in March, with an award honoring him for his Sunshine Amendment. Ironically, among one of the many of the Sunshine Law's landmark open record provisions is the requirement that state officials provide financial disclosures, the rule that Rivera has been found to have violated.
"A public office is a public trust," Askew's widow, Donna Lou, told the commission, as Rivera sat next to his lawyer, Collins.
About 30 minutes later, Collins made another appeal. As Robison made a motion to adjourn the meeting, Collins rushed to the podium.
"I would ask you that you reconsider," Collins said, before making a case for Rivera. Robison interrupted him.
"We have heard the matter, we have the resolved the matter, we're not going to bring it up again," Robison said.
Not satisfied, after the gavel came down, Rivera walked up to the dais as everyone was leaving and asked Robison and the Commission's executive director, Virlindia Doss, why his case was brought up first.
"We were trying to accommodate Mrs. Askew, who is elderly and frail," Doss said.
"But she wasn't here when you took us out of order," Rivera said.
"No, we thought your matter might take a long time so we wanted to take it up first and give it the time it deserved, while not requiring Mrs. Askew to wait around," Doss told Rivera. (The Askew ceremony had been scheduled at 10 a.m., and the Commission decided to take the most complicated case early, Rivera's, so it could be resolved in time and not delay the ceremony.)
"But she got here later," Rivera said, not understanding Doss' point.
"I understand," Doss said as Collins gently pulled Rivera to leave.
Asked if he was happy with Doss' explanation, Rivera said "I need to speak to him privately," pointing to Collins.
As usual, Rivera wasn't talking to reporters. Earlier in the meeting, Rivera was asked how he is paying for his ever-changing legal team.
"Email me," he replied in what has become a stock answer for him.
When the reporter asked why he can't respond verbally, Rivera said: "Do you have a problem emailing me?"
When the reporter pointed out that he was right there and could easily respond, Rivera said, again, 'Email me."
"So I know you won't misquote me," Rivera said, who came in fourth in the August Republican primary where he was trying to regain his congressional seat.
Rivera said he wasn't reassured that the interview was being recorded.
"Are you going to give me the tape recorder so I can take it back to Miami?"
No, but the reporter said he could email him the audio.
"I give you the interview, you give me the tape recorder," Rivera said.
When told that seemed like an uneven trade, Rivera had only one answer.
A list of questions -- How is he paying for the attorneys? Why did his three other attorneys quit? Did he stop paying them? -- were emailed to him minutes later.
Would he answer them?
"I will consider them," Rivera said. "I will consider answering them. Your prerogative is to ask the question, my prerogative is to respond."