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Senate scandal puts Norman back on top

So, if we can paraphrase this week's appellate court decision that put Jim Norman back on the state Senate ballot faster than you can say gol-durn-Mearline-we-sure-dodged-that-one, it would go something like:

Ethics, schmethics.

A county commissioner who a judge ruled did not disclose the gift of a vacation home from a rich political activist? Sorry, doesn't keep him from running for the Senate under our state Constitution.

Have a problem with a candidate? Take it up with the Commission on Ethics. Those folks will give the matter serious consideration, gum on it toothlessly awhile, spit it out and issue an order saying it looks good to them.

Plus there's the Florida Legislature, which has the power to deal decisively with bad behavior by its own.

Sorry, did I make you choke on your Cheerios there?

Oh, and one more thing: The voters have spoken!

They elected Norman decisively in the primary, and his opponent now trying to boot him off the ballot for bad behavior should have said something sooner.

In conclusion, this mandate shall issue forthwith, and no motion for rehearing shall be entertained, so don't ask us to deal with this nasty, ugly political mess again, because we've got our own Taj Mahal headache to handle. We're done here. Anyone got hand sanitizer?

This week, the 1st District Court of Appeal issued a sterile order giving the appropriate rules and reasons for putting the disgraced Hillsborough commissioner back on the ballot and, for all practical purposes, in the Florida Senate.

The court's order talks of alleged "inaccuracies in financial disclosure" — though not much about a public official taking a half-million-dollar vacation home from a powerful activist with a keen interest in commission votes.

Can we get a little more hand sanitizer over here?

Its order was in sharp contrast to that of the lower court judge who heard testimony, asked questions and threw ethics and common sense in there with the law. Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford ruled unequivocally that Norman deliberately tried to deceive the public about a gift of $500,0000 from construction materials company millionaire Ralph Hughes, a transaction Norman called an investment by his wife. The judge did not say "Gimme a break," but it was implied.

(One wagster I know wondered if Norman and the appeals judges worked out a swap — the judges tired of that fancy $48 million Taj Mahal courthouse they're getting so much flak about, all those wearisome granite countertops and that boring African mahogany might be leaving them yearning for something a little more rustic, like, say, a long weekend in a lakefront house in Arkansas.)

Seriously. It would be nice if voters in Senate District 12 could take what they know about Norman to the ballot box, but no, Democrats failed to field a single candidate, even a promising hopeful, the folly of which you hope isn't lost next time around.

And so, despite an FBI inquiry, Norman is all but firmly planted in a seat he is not likely to leave.

The court's order says plenty about taking great care to respect the will of the voters, as in the ones who gave him the primary nod, and fair enough. But you don't read much in there about how to deal with voters' disillusionment when you get an ending like this.

Senate scandal puts Norman back on top 10/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:59pm]
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