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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ethics complaint filed against Sen. Gary Siplin over 'newsletter' that mentions wife

10

August

UPDATE: Gary Siplin just issued a response via his Senate office.

State Senator Gary Siplin (D-Orlando) released the following statement Friday regarding a politically motivated complaint:  “I pray in JESUS’ NAME, for Amy Ritter’s protection, her happiness, and her welfare; and, I truly pity her, and may God bless her.  (1 Peter 3:9 Amplified Bible).”

ORIGINAL POST: Earlier this morning, Senator Gary Siplin tweeted: "HATERS are my motivators."

Now, we know what may be irking him. The Orlando Sentinel reported today that an ethics complaint has been filed against Siplin and accuses him of using taxpayer dollars to send mailers outside of the district he represents that seem to be a veiled attempt to help his wife's campaign.

Siplin, an Orlando Democrat, can't run for re-election because of term limits. His wife, Victoria, a political novice, is running for his seat instead. The complaint alleges that the newsletter from Siplin's Senate office mentions Victoria Siplin and was sent to homes outside of Gary Siplin's current district but within the boundary lines of the redraw seat that his wife is currently seeking, the Sentinel said.

Victoria Siplin faces Rep. Geraldine Thompson, also an Orlando Democrat, in Tuesday's primary.

This won't be the first time Siplin has been accused of abusing power. Most of the charges didn't stick, but in May he agreed to pay a $3,000 fine to the Florida Elections Commission stemming from issues with his 2008 re-election campaign.

From the Sentinel:

A local Democratic activist has filed a complaint against state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, accusing  him of abusing his office by sending out a publicly funded “newsletter” promoting his wife while she campaigns for his Senate seat.

The glossy, eight-page mailer mentions Victoria Siplin half a dozen times and includes two photos of her. In addition, at least some mailers were sent to homes outside Gary Siplin’s current Senate district — but inside the district Victoria Siplin is seeking. The heavily Democratic district was redrawn this year as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process. Gary Siplin is being forced to retire because of term limits.

The mail piece dropped just before voters choose between Victoria Siplin and state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, in the Democratic primary for the seat.

Amy Ritter’s complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics accuses Gary Siplin of breaking a state law that says public employees cannot “corruptly use his or her official position or any property resource which may be within his or her trust…to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself, herself, or others.”

Ritter told the Orlando Sentinel that she was particularly incensed that Gary Siplin’s mailer went to people other than his district constituents.

“I live in the district his wife is running in, but not in the district he currently is in,” Ritter said. “I’ve never gotten anything from the man before. I find it to be very unethical because it’s clearly a campaign piece for his wife, funded by taxpayers.”

Gary Siplin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In addition to state law, Florida Senate rules require any mass communications from senators be sent to “constituents.” But a representative for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, would not say where Haridopolos’ administration believes Siplin’s mailer complies with that rule.

“As stated in the Senate’s policy, the senators are responsible for the distribution and content of their newsletters,” Haridopolos spokeswoman Elizabeth Moya said.

[Last modified: Friday, August 10, 2012 2:08pm]

    

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