New ethics complaint filed against Norman
TAMPA — A college history professor is filing an ethics complaint against state Senator-elect Jim Norman over the home his wife acquired with money from one of his political supporters.
Keith Berry, an American history professor at Hillsborough Community College, said he sent the complaint by certified mail to the Florida Commission on Ethics Wednesday. The Commission does not confirm complaints until an initial investigation is completed, but Berry shared a copy of a cover letter explaining his rationale with the St. Petersburg Times Thursday.
As a father of two who interacts daily with students who are often cynical about the political process, Berry said he felt he could not allow Norman’s "unconscionable" actions to go unchallenged.
"I honestly can’t tell them to get involved in the political process if people are allowed to conduct themselves in this manner and be allowed to get away with it," he said.
Berry contends in his complaint that a $500,000 gift from late activist Ralph Hughes to Norman’s wife, which was used to purchase a $435,000 lake-front home in Arkansas, is unauthorized compensation for an elected official under state law.
"I implore you the Commission on Ethics to rectify this unfortunate situation by issuing a recommendation that will leave no doubt as to the proper conduct of an elected official," his letter reads.
Norman served 18 years on the Hillsborough County Commission before running for the Senate, facing a challenge from fellow Republican and state Rep. Kevin Ambler. Ambler lost in the Republican primary, then sued Norman seeking to remove him from the ballot for failing to list the gift in a required disclosure form.
A Tallahassee judge did remove Norman from the ballot less than two weeks before the general election, finding that the gift to his wife amounted to a gift to him that should have been disclosed. But an appellate court overturned that ruling.
This is at least the second ethics complaint submitted against Norman in the matter. An earlier one was rejected because it was filed in close proximity to the election, which state law doesn’t allow.
An attempt to reach Norman late Thursday was not successful.
Bill Varian, Times staff writer