The state attorney for Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit will go before the Florida Ethics Commission Friday, answering a complaint that during 2018 and even before, she campaigned during working hours, costing state taxpayers what the complainant claims are "many thousands of dollars" in political absenteeism.
Campaigning during work hours is a violation of Florida Statutes 104.31 and 110.233.
According to the "Amira Fox for State Attorney" website, as it appeared in 2018, Fox "oversees the prosecution of tens of thousands of cases throughout Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Lee Counties. She also supervises a team of 300 staff members including 120 assistant state attorneys." Fox was chief assistant state attorney in the office during the election period. She subsequently won the race.
Linda Malie of Sebring told the Ethics Commission in a complaint filed Sept. 6, 2018, the evidence against Fox is air-tight.
"Referencing the 2018 calendar," Malie wrote, "timesheets and political events attended during not only day working hours but also evening hours, it is not possible that Amira D. Fox could perform said services for which she receives compensation from the state."
(See the complaint attachments by clicking on the blue "Downloads" directly below this story.)
Malie particularly noted July 1, 2018, when Fox attended a campaign debate at 7 a.m. but failed to note it either on the calendar or her timesheet. "To my knowledge, this debate however, ran well over 2 hours and was in Naples FL, a 45-minute to 1 hour drive from Ft. Myers," wrote the complainant.
Malie, an animal rights activist, told Sunshine State News she came across Fox's timesheets while researching public records for an animal rights case. "It appeared so blatant what Amira Fox was doing, I just got stuck in to checking her out," she said.
Fox earlier this week declined to discuss the complaint or the upcoming Ethics Commission hearing with Sunshine State News.
There were earlier complaints from other parties saying Fox violated office policy. On Jan. 5, 2018, Rosemarie Mitchell, the office's human resource director, informed Fox: "You were short 19.50 hours on your December 2017* timesheet; therefore, you owe $1478.75/19.50 hours." Fox repaid the money.
"Paying back the money does not dismiss the Florida Statute violations, and charges have not been filed," Malie said in her complaint. "Furthermore. according to 2018 public records, it appears approximately 60 Republican political events were attended during work hours, each one being a violation of Florida Statutes. It is a concern if state vehicles and gas cards were used during these times. These are political events I have potentially identified where Amira Fox campaigned during work hours ... this is not to be taken as a complete or inclusive list of all political campaigning during the two-year period."
Under Ethics Commission rules, the respondent, the complainant, and their counsel are permitted to attend the hearing to observe the Commission's deliberations. Malie said her mother is in Hospice care and she would be unable to attend; Samantha Syoen in the state attorney's office said Fox will travel to Tallahassee for the 10 a.m. hearing in the third floor courtroom, First District Court of Appeal.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith