Monday, October 19, 2009

Gelber announces proposed legislation to combat public corruption

State Senator Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach) on Friday announced proposals aimed at combating public corruption. Senator Gelber previously served as an Assistant US Attorney in South Florida where he prosecuted dozens of public officials from Monroe County to Palm Beach, and in Washington D.C.

Senator Gelber intends to seek passage of Senate Bill 444, known as the “Honest Services Bill.” Currently, Florida has no statute that addresses citizens’ intangible right to honest government service. The measure will be sponsored in the House by Rep. Martin “Marty” Kiar (D-Davie).

“The citizens of Florida have the right to honest and loyal service by our public officials and it is only appropriate that state prosecutors be fully equipped to prosecute those who defraud the citizens of Florida of that right,” said Gelber.

The proposed legislation allows for the prosecution of individuals who are guilty of defrauding public and private employees of intangible property rights for their own personal gain. The theory of a citizen’s intangible right to honest services hinges on the idea that a public official acts as trustee for the citizens and the state, and thus owes them the normal fiduciary duties of a trustee such as honesty and loyalty. Corruption comes in many forms and does not always constitute outright bribery or other illegal activity, but nonetheless involves personal gain on behalf of an official at the expense of the public trust.

“Our state attorneys already investigate and prosecute corrupt public officials under existing laws related to bribery, extortion, and illegal campaign contributions, but if we expect them to fully prosecute corruption cases, we should provide our state attorneys every possible tool for their arsenal,” said Gelber. “The Florida Legislature should codify as illegal the theft of honest services.”

Additionally, Senator Gelber will seek to adopt legislative measures included in the Grand Jury report issued by State Attorney Mike McAuliffe of the 15th Judicial Circuit (see ).

“State Attorney McAuliffe has put together a package of integrity reforms that include legislation that needs to be passed and administrative measures that need to be implemented. While I appreciate Governor Crist’s request for a statewide grand jury to report back in a year, frankly we already have a grand jury report that has lots of ideas that could be adopted tomorrow,” Gelber said.

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