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Miami lawmaker caught living outside his district, says he'll move soon

TALLAHASSEE — More than 170 days since Republican Rep. Frank Artiles was elected, he still hasn't moved to the west Miami-Dade district he represents in the Florida House — a potential constitutional violation that could cost him five months' pay.

Artiles was caught living in his Palmetto Bay home Monday night when a Miami political blogger knocked on the door.

Wearing gym shorts and socks as he watched the Miami Heat basketball game, Artiles admitted to blogger Elaine de Valle that he didn't live in his district, she wrote.

"I'm moving to West Kendall next week," he told de Valle, a former Miami Herald reporter, according to a Tuesday posting on her Political Cortadito blog. When she pulled her videocamera out to interview him, she wrote, he closed the door on her.

Artiles didn't return calls to the Times/Herald on Wednesday. When a Times/Herald reporter called his cell phone as he sat on the House floor before session, Artiles picked up the phone and then put it down without answering. He later waved to a reporter in the gallery, but refused to return calls or a text message.

Artiles was elected last year in District 119 against Democrat Katie Edwards. But there was at least one person who didn't vote for Artiles: Artiles himself. The Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Office said Artiles voted by absentee ballot in District 115, where Rep. Jose Diaz was elected state representative for the Palmetto Bay area.

The elections office says Artiles is still a registered voter of District 115, not District 119. After his election, Artiles left a Miami post office box and his Palmetto Bay home as mailing addresses.

Even if Artiles moves to District 119, it could be too late to avoid financial trouble, said ethics lawyer Mark Herron.

Herron represented Jacksonville Democrat Reggie Fullwood earlier this year when a political opponent filed a House Rules Committee complaint that pointed out Fullwood, after his election, didn't live in his district and wasn't a registered voter — as required by the state Constitution.

Exactly 15 days after his election, Fullwood registered to be a voter in District 15. The House voted to fine him his daily salary of $81.36 for each day he failed to change his registration.

Total fine: $1,220.40.

By that standard, Artiles' fine would be $13,831.20.

But no one has filed a formal complaint against Artiles with the Florida House. At least not yet.

"Before making any decisions on whether we should take any actions, we look forward to House Speaker Dean Cannon holding his own members accountable," said Eric Jotkoff, a Florida Democratic Party spokesman. "Speaker Cannon should be the one to move the ethics process forward."

Cannon's spokeswoman, Katie Betta, said the House takes these cases seriously. But, she said, "the House has a formal process, and it doesn't begin with a blog entry."

Artiles had a taste of controversy earlier this session when he appeared on the CNN show Anderson Cooper 360 to defend a bill that banned doctors from asking prospective patients about gun ownership. Artiles misrepresented the scope of the ban, and Cooper called him out the following night on his show — where Artiles didn't appear.

"As for why he was so adamantly inaccurate about it last night," Cooper said of Artiles, "we'll let you be the judge of that."

Miami lawmaker caught living outside his district, says he'll move soon 04/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 8:27pm]
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