Once again, state Rep. Kimberly Daniels is willing to admit she broke the law.
Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat who has repeatedly faced ethics and elections complaints during her eight years in politics, filed an agreement recently with the state that she would confess to filing false financial disclosures. In return, the agreement says, the commission should refer the case to House Speaker Jose Oliva for any further action.
The statewide ethics commission will meet Jan. 25 to decide whether or not to accept this deal. Oliva and Daniels both did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
Daniels has agreed to admit she filed inaccurate disclosures in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Daniels is perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the Legislature and has been a friend to Republicans in her anti-abortion advocacy and support for religious liberty. She authored a law that guaranteed students could express religious views at school, including by praying before, during and after class. Her most recent bill would require every public school to offer a class on the “objective study of the Bible.”
But ever since her time on Jacksonville City Council, she has also sparked ethics complaints. She previously agreed to pay a $1,500 fine related to a 2015 Florida Election Commission complaint that she illegally used campaign funds on personal expenses. In that case, she agreed that the commission could prove the facts.
In a previous ethics commission complaint, the state said she probably broke the law but it had to drop the complaint because it was filed too close to an election. That complaint was identical to the most recent one. Due to legal issues, it had to be re-filed after an election.
Those complaints were based on reporting by The Florida Times-Union that showed Daniels, who pastors a church, shuffled properties and time–shares to her nonprofit ministry and didn’t disclose $1 million in debt owed on a Broward County home. Her disclosures listed no properties or mortgage debt during her years on Jacksonville City Council.
The commission’s investigation listed a number of findings about assets and debts, including the fact that Daniels owned a Jacksonville home but didn’t list it as an asset and she didn’t list its mortgage as a debt.
The commission’s investigation found that Daniels had eight properties, but seven of them were through two of her nonprofit ministries, including the home where she lived. She said she doesn’t pay any of the mortgages personally, and the church handles them instead. Even the house that was in her name was not disclosed in her financial documents. For that home, there was a home–equity line of credit given in Daniels’ and her then–husband’s name.
Daniels also claimed to not own a car.
When she went through a divorce, proceeds from the sale of one of the church’s homes were split between her and her ex–husband. Technically, the report said, because the home was still listed as belonging to the church, Daniels would not have had to list it in her disclosure.
But when Daniels said the church owned three time–shares in Orlando and Daytona Beach, the commission report found that the lawmaker may have been less than forthcoming. The documents listed Daniels and her then–husband’s names on the documents. Without evidence to the contrary, the report said, “it can be presumed that [Daniels’]” interest and debts in the time–shares should have been disclosed.
It’s unclear if Daniels still owns the time–shares. She did not list them on her most recent financial disclosure.
She said the church owns her life insurance because she is the “face” of the church, and her death could affect the church’s income. Yet she did list that insurance policy on her disclosure forms.
The penalties for inaccurately filing a disclosure form range from a public reprimand to a removal or suspension from office. The most common penalty is a civil fine, which can be as high as $10,000.
The ethics commission can accept the deal or reject it. If the commission believed she should face a penalty, then it might say so. In that case, an advocate assigned by the Office of the Attorney General would try to negotiate a new agreement.