Nikki Fried attacks Florida Commission on Ethics after finding probable cause she violated law

Governor's spokeswoman refutes Florida agriculture commissioner's claims
Posted at 2:00 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 14:09:47-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida's agriculture commissioner offered a public retort Friday to a state ethics panel's findings against her.

Nikki Fried was asked about the Florida Commission on Ethics finding probable cause that she violated the law by failing to initially disclose more than $400,000 in lobbying income while announcing a bid for governor.

"It's interesting to have an ethics commission that's appointed by the governor, the Senate president speaker, and to think that there would be any other type of result," Fried said during a news conference in Jupiter about her office's efforts to phase out polystyrene products.

She referred to the statement released through her spokesman, Drew Godinich, who claimed that a "disgraced Republican Party official filed a false and fraudulent ethics complaint" against the Democratic candidate for governor.

Gov. Ron DeSantis vs. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone Democratic member of the Florida Cabinet, has been an outspoken opponent of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"Consistent with the administration's regular practice of feeding false information to its subordinate agencies, Commissioner Fried is being attacked for following the law and showing transparency, exactly the opposite of what Republican Ron DeSantis and his cohorts do every day," Godinich continued.

Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, filed the ethics complaint in June after Fried amended her 2017 and 2018 disclosure of financial interests to show she earned more than what was previously disclosed.

Before becoming agriculture commissioner, Fried worked as a lobbyist for the medical marijuana industry.

Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, wouldn't comment on the complaint or the outcome, but she refuted Fried's claims about the ethics commission, calling the nine-member panel bipartisan and noting that the findings were unanimous.

"The bipartisan, independent commission has also found probable cause in complaints against Republican officials, so Fried's accusations of politically motivated persecution do not stand up to scrutiny or logic," Pushaw said in an email to WPTV.

Nikki Fried smiles during news conference in Jupiter, Dec. 10, 2021
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried smiles as she listens to a question during a Dec. 10, 2021, news conference in Jupiter, Fla.

According to the Florida Commission on Ethics website, each of the nine members serves a two-year term. Five members are appointed by the governor, with no more than three from the same political party. One member appointed by the governor must be a former city or county official.

The remaining four members are evenly appointed by the Senate president and House speaker. Neither may appoint more than one member from the same political party.

Fried joins former Gov. Charlie Crist, who won office as a Republican, became an independent and later became a member of the Democratic Party, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who was Crist's running mate in their failed 2014 gubernatorial bid, as one of several Democrats challenging DeSantis in 2022.