Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman accused of misuse of state funds

TALLAHASSEE — The state Commission on Ethics has found that Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman Jr. may have "corruptly" misused his position or state resources to pay for frequent taxpayer-funded trips between the state capital and his home in St. Petersburg.

The watchdog agency found probable cause that Peterman violated the code of ethics, which could subject him to a fine. With a new governor set to take office next month, Peterman has resigned as chief of the Department of Juvenile Justice and is likely to be replaced.

Peterman, 48, is a former Democratic state representative from St. Petersburg and a minister who preaches at the Rock of Jesus Missionary Baptist Church in his hometown. Gov. Charlie Crist appointed him to run the department in February of 2008.

The investigation was triggered by a citizen's complaint based on a Times/Herald news story in November 2009 that showed Peterman had spent $44,000 on travel in his first 18 months as a state official. Many trips were airplane flights between Tallahassee and Tampa, and Peterman's family continued to live in St. Petersburg while he worked for the state.

The probable cause action against Peterman was somewhat unexpected because the agency's staff recommended a finding of no probable cause, saying there was a lack of evidence that he acted with corrupt intent as the law requires.

"(Peterman's) actions could be categorized as mismanagement or waste in government," advocate or prosecutor Diane Guillemette wrote in her recommendation, "but as the agency head it was part of his position to determine if the travel was necessary. … Consequently, the 'corruption' element of the charge cannot be sustained."

In addition, Peterman has reimbursed the state $25,630 for travel that an internal investigation by the Governor's Office considered excessive or not a justifiable government expense.

With five of the commission's nine members in attendance in a closed-door session last Friday, the panel voted 4-1 to fully pursue an inquiry of Peterman, said Kerrie Stillman, a spokeswoman for the Ethics Commission.

A more thorough review could take months to complete. If the violation is upheld by the commission, the panel recommends a penalty to the governor, who makes the final decision.

Peterman declined to comment and referred questions to his attorney, Mark Herron, who said of the decision: "It doesn't seem to be an appropriate use of the state's resources, when the case has already been adjudicated and the penalties have been paid."

Last January, Crist's chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, issued a critical report that recommended Peterman repay the state as a "corrective action … for travel not fully and completely justified as official state business."

Crist declined to criticize Peterman over the Ethics Commission's finding.

"I want to reserve judgment because probable cause in and of itself doesn't reach to the level of a determination. While it's not a great step, to say the least, it's not a conclusion," Crist said. "We're innocent till proven guilty."

Peterman has remained on the job, earning $120,000 a year, but he switched to commuting by car between the two cities after the story appeared.

Peterman's travel bills included $2,848 in parking charges, $7,430 for hotel rooms and $1,600 in fees to change flight times. The report criticizes his frequent use of short-term airport parking and notes he charged the state $785 for five hotel nights and a rental car for two conferences in Tampa.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (950) 224-7263.

Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman accused of misuse of state funds 12/08/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 11:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.
  2. Police pull unconscious New Port Richey man from SUV in Cotee River

    Accidents

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Police rescued an unconscious driver whose sport utility vehicle plunged into the Cotee River on Saturday.

  3. Analysis: Bannon is out, but his agenda may live on

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — In his West Wing office, Stephen Bannon kept a chart listing trade actions — on China, steel and autos — that the Trump White House planned to roll out, week by week, through the fall. Now that Bannon, the president's chief strategist, has been pushed out, the question is whether his …

    Steve Bannon thinks he could be more effective influencing policy from outside the White House.
  4. Trump to skip Kennedy Center Honors awards program

    Politics

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Acknowledging that he has become a "political distraction," President Donald Trump has decided to skip the festivities surrounding the annual Kennedy Center Honors arts awards later this year, the White House announced Saturday amid the continuing fallout over Trump's stance on last weekend's …

  5. Bucs' annual Women of RED preseason party attracts nearly 2,000

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Theresa Jones is primarily a college football fan, but she wanted to get a taste of the Bucs. So the 46-year-old Tampa resident bought a ticket for the team's Women of RED Ultimate Football Party at Raymond James Stadium on Friday.

    Lee White of Seminole tries on a helmet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers female fans descended upon Raymond James Stadium for the ultimate football party, the 2017 Women of RED: The Takeover, supported by Moffitt Cancer Center. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times