Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In nasty east Hillsborough race, now both Lee and Burgin face ethics complaints

TAMPA — The slugfest for an eastern Hillsborough County state Senate seat took another turn Monday when two people filed an ethics complaint against candidate Tom Lee, just a week away from the primary election.

Now both Republicans in the Aug. 14 primary for Senate District 24 — Lee and rival Rachel Burgin — face complaints filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Burgin was hit with one last month.

A Valrico lawyer accused her of directing donations to a political committee responsible for an attack mailer aimed at Lee. Burgin denied the allegations.

In the latest ethics case, two women accuse Lee of undervaluing his real estate holdings on the financial disclosure form he filed for this election.

The women provided the Tampa Bay Times a copy of the complaint, but with their names removed.

Elizabeth Morowati of Carrollwood, whose address remained visible on the documents, later confirmed she was one of the two complainants.

The complaint questions why BTL Ventures LLC, a Florida company that lists Lee as a manager, is not included on Lee's financial disclosure forms. BTL's property in Hillsborough, 12 acres valued at roughly $458,250, is not listed, either.

Lee, a home builder and former Senate president, said Monday that there is an easy explanation: He has no financial stake in the company.

He said BTL is a family real estate company in which he has no ownership. He said he has helped out on some projects, but received no income.

"It's just a grotesque leap of logic," he said of the complaint. "Everything on my financial disclosure form has been accurately reported."

The complaint also questions why Lee did not specifically list several other parcels that are in his name. Lee said that land is included in property that is disclosed on his form.

Neither Morowati nor the other woman who filed the complaint live in the district. The other woman refused to give her name, and the ethics commission will not provide copies of complaints during its inquiry.

Both women say they have no ties to the Burgin campaign, or any third-party group gunning for Lee, but are merely targeting so-called "establishment" candidates. Lee has won endorsements from a number of political leaders.

"When we see something is not right, we just document it. We don't care who it is," said Morowati, a 65-year-old registered Republican who has been involved in the tea party-supported 9-12 Project.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at or (813) 226-3374.

In nasty east Hillsborough race, now both Lee and Burgin face ethics complaints 08/06/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 12:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump's lawyers seek to undercut Mueller's Russia investigation


    Some of President Donald Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president's authority to grant pardons, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar …

    President Donald Trump is said to be irritated by the notion that the special counsel's investigation could reach into his and his family's finances. [Associated Press]
  2. North Tampa shooting leaves one man dead


    Times staff

    TAMPA — A man was fatally shot Thursday afternoon after an argument with another man escalated, police said.

  3. St. Pete City Council tightens building rules in historic areas

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — There's a battle being waged over the soul of the city's historic neighborhoods.

    A new larger home sits next to a smaller one in the Kenwood neighborhood in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
  4. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  5. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.