Ethics Commission Enforces Order Against Beruff

Staff Report
After five long years, the Florida Commission on Ethics recently voted to adopt a staff draft order affirming an Administrative Law Judge's recommended order regarding ethics violations by politically powerful developer Carlos Beruff, tied to the builder's time as chair of the Southwest Florida Water Management District's board.

In 2020, the commission found probable cause after investigating a complaint filed by Manasota-88 in June of 2017, alleging that requirements to disclose assets on financial disclosures for the years 2013, 2014, and 2015 had not been met by Beruff. 

Beruff admitted in testimony that his financials did not comply with the requirements, stating that he did not fill out the forms, which he said were completed by an employee who prepared them before he added his signature and submitted them to the state (click here to listen to an audio recording of Beruff's testimony to the commission).

Additionally, Manasota-88 alleged that Beruff, while serving as chairman of the SWFWMD board, had a voting conflict when he made a motion to approve a permit to destroy wetlands that benefited fellow developer Pat Neal. Neal and Beruff were beneficial owners of several lots in a development known as the Inlets, the same property that was not described as required on financial disclosures Beruff filed.

In May of this year, an administrative law judge wrote that Beruff should get a $1,500 fine, official reprimand, and public censure for failing to properly disclose information on the forms.

Beruff took exception to five of the findings of fact from the recommendation and the draft final order prepared by ethics commission staff and then rejected all of them.

"I've been serving as an advocate since 2009, this is by far the worst case of failing to disclose that I've ever seen," said Melody Hadley, Ethics Commission Advocate during the hearing.

Some members of the commission—particularly former state rep. Jim Waldman and former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz—seemed inclined to give Beruff tremendous benefit of the doubt, before ultimately voting 7-1 to approve the staff-drafter order, with only Waldman dissenting.

As a result of the ruling, the $1,500 fine, along with the official reprimand and public censure will stand.

Reader Comments
Barbara Elliott
AUG 12, 2022  •  That is more reason for a county charter as involves Baugh. It is also reason for the Florida Ethics Commission to be empowered to impose criminal penalties instead of taps on the hand. Pat Neal was chairman of the Florida Ethics Commission, aka part of the Florida good old boy club in once. He knew he shouldn't have been involved in the Inlets with Beruff.
AUG 06, 2022  •  Sad…..what will it take to get Ethics Commissions of all types in our State to do their jobs. Beruff is laughing at $1,500. Maybe robots would do a better job.
Cat L
AUG 01, 2022  •  The barest tap on the hand.... not much in the way of discouragement. for the likes of Beruff. Infuriating ...
JUL 31, 2022  •  That is a lame penalty and easily paid by Beruff. More Florida circus by Florida monkeys. When you run Florida like Beruff and Neal you will eventually be found out. What they do in the light is as bad as what they do in the dark. It’s time for public revolution of poor behavior.
JUL 31, 2022  •  The legacy of Beruff and Neal thereby will confirm all of the accusations they have worked diligently to suppress. Their families will bear the dishonor forever.
Barbara A. Angelucci
JUL 31, 2022  •  The penalty should have been as severe as his illegal actions.