TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — On Wednesday, the Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) violated ethics rules when he threatened to withhold funding to the City of West Melbourne over a personal dispute with Brevard County school board member Jennifer Jenkins.
The ethics committee overturned the findings of an Advocate with the Florida Attorney General’s office, who said they did not have enough evidence to support the complaint filed by Jenkins. But the state ethics panel disagreed.
The Ethics Commission “found probable cause to believe that [Fine] abused his position to obtain a disproportionate benefit and that he misused his position by threatening to take away State funding over a personal feud with a Brevard County School Board member, and that he interfered in a council member’s response to a public records request for communications related to the dispute.”
Fine sent a statement to FLORIDA TODAY by text message calling the commission a “kangaroo court” and said its findings were politically motivated. “It is clear to me, based on Jim Waldman’s motion, that the kangaroo court that is the Florida Commission on Ethics has a personal axe [sic] to grind with myself and my politics,” Fine said.
According to FLORIDA TODAY, Fine told West Melbourne City Councilman John Dittmore last year that funding for the Special Olympics was “at risk” because they did not invite him to participate in a fundraiser held by the West Melbourne Police Department. When only one school board member out of five, Jennifer Jenkins, agreed to attend the event, Fine threatened to withhold funding.
“Jenkins just put your project and Special Olympics funding on the veto list,” Fine wrote.
At the time of Fine’s threat, Jenkins and Fine had reportedly been engaged in a feud over mask mandates at Brevard County Public Schools. Fine denied making any threats and denied demanding that city attorney Morris Richardson – who is now the Brevard County attorney – be fired.
Fine contends that the $460,000 city project and around $1 million in other appropriations for the Special Olympics were included in the Legislature’s state budget passed last year.