Florida Politics: Republican leader files ethics complaint against Nikki Fried

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The complaint marks the latest blow against Fried.

Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County GOP, filed an ethics complaint Friday against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, chastising the gubernatorial contender for failing to disclose more than $400,000 in lobbying income.

The complaint comes days after Fried amended financial disclosures to reveal hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional lobbying income from Igniting Florida, a consulting firm that lobbied lawmakers on behalf of the medical marijuana industry.

The complaint further accuses Fried of failing to properly account for the “exponential increase” of both her net worth and personal effects since taking office.

According to the document, Fried recently acquired a home valued at more than $701,000. And though the house was reported on her 2018 and 2019 disclosure, the complaint alleges there was “no dip or increase in her income reported to substantiate such a purchase.”

“If this was a ‘gift’ from a non-family member and was permissible, it would be required to be reported on a FORM 9, quarterly gift disclosure, and it was not,” the complaints states.

The document also notes that the value of Fried’s “house goods and personal effects” have dramatically increased since taking office. According to the complaint, Fried’s disclosures jumped from $10,000 in 2017 to $230,000 by December 2019.

A similar rise, the complaint notes, is evident in Fried’s net worth. According to the complaint, Fried’s net worth increased from $271,613 in June 2018 to more than $1.44 million by December 2019.

Notably, the complaint cites Fried’s finance, Jake Bergmann, as a potential witness, among others. Bergmann is the founder and former CEO of Surterra Wellness, a multistate medical cannabis company.

Other counts cited within the complaint include Fried’s failure to report any income during her time as a lobbyist for Colodny Fass in 2017 and 2018, and her failure to report assets within her IRAs and 401(k).

The complaint marks the latest jab by Republicans over the financial disclosures.

Sen. Joe Gruters on Friday called on the Florida Legislature to investigate Fried for failing to properly report the lobbying income.

Gruters, who is the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, sent a request to Senate Rules Committee Chair Kathleen Passidomo and House Public Integrity & Elections Committee Chair Erin Grall about the matter.

Moreover, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez have also capitalized on the issue.

Appearing Friday on NewsMax, Nunez blasted Fried for the issue and criticized her personal stake in the cannabis industry.

“As Commissioner, she has been a total disaster, and she has tried to hide her deep-seated ties with the marijuana industry because of her relationship with her fiancé,” Nunez said.

Fried, meanwhile, described the error as an innocent oversight while speaking on “Florida Roundup,” a program featured throughout the state on NPR affiliates.

Fried’s explanation mirrored a statement provided earlier in the week by Max Flugrath, Fried’s spokesperson.

“When filing the form in 2018, Commissioner Fried provided her attorney with her salary for the 2018 calendar year, roughly six months of income,” Flugrath said. “We realized 2017 gross income, including all her business’ income and reimbursements, should have been reported, not just her salary.”