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Candidate’s financial disclosure raises questions about consulting company

State Rep. Erik Fresen’s most recent financial disclosure includes tens of thousands of dollars in income from a company he started called Neighborhood Strategies.

But the company was dissolved — and effectively put out of business — by the state in 2009.

The Miami Republican explained that he still has a few contracts with clients who have been with the company since its dissolution.

"If, in fact, I do have to go back to the [state Division of Corporations] and re-register, I will," he said, adding that all of the business has been publicly disclosed.

Florida law prohibits companies that have been administratively dissolved from carrying out any business, except that which is needed to "wind up and liquidate [their] affairs."

Fresen is seeking re-election to Florida House District 114, which includes parts of Coral Gables, West Miami, Pinecrest and Cutler Bay. He has drawn two challengers: Democrat Daisy Baez and independent Ross Hancock.

A land-use consultant, Fresen formed Neighborhood Strategies in 2005.

He describes the business as "a company of one." He says he consults on business development projects and assists firms that compete for municipal contracts.

He helped one client, an education company called Professional Training Centers, set up an internship program with local hospitals and healthcare clinics, he said.

The company’s other top clients, according to Fresen’s financial disclosure form, are the construction management firm MCM Inc. and the contracting firm Servcor International.

Neighborhood Strategies was dissolved by the state in 2009 for failure to file an annual report, state records show. Yet, Fresen has been reporting at least $40,000 in annual income from the company since 2010. He said he has continued using that bank account for business.

"It has always just handled a few transactions," he said. "They have all been publicly disclosed from day one."

Lawmakers in Florida are required to disclose their financial interests under the Sunshine Amendment to the state Constitution. Failure to do so could result in a fine or other punishment.

Fresen's annual income also includes a $150,000 salary from the architectural design firm Civica, and about $30,000 from the state for serving in the Florida House.

This isn't the first time his financial disclosure forms have drawn scrutiny. In 2012, the state Ethics Commission found probable cause that Fresen had failed to properly disclose his annual net worth, assets, and liabilities in forms filed from 2008 to 2011.

A year later, Fresen agreed to correct the forms and signed an agreement acknowledging the mistakes. But Fresen and the ethics commission continued to battle because he refused to pay a $1,500 ethics fine assessed to him in 2003.

Fresen contends he was not made aware of the fine until it was no longer enforceable.