Senate Republican leader files for divorce from lobbyist wife

TALLAHASSEE — Senate Republican leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla wants a divorce, and he says the assets accumulated during his six-year marriage to a Tallahassee lobbyist should be equally distributed.

But Claudia Diaz de la Portilla, in her own court filing, depicts the South Florida lawmaker as a husband who spends her money and doesn't pay the mortgage.

"I am disheartened that a petition filed in the court would contain such gross inaccuracies," said Sen. Diaz de la Portilla, "but our personal life should not be a matter for public involvement and I expect and hope everyone will respect our privacy as we work through these very personal family matters."

Records show he filed for divorce in Miami-Dade County on Dec. 10, asking the court to "equally distribute" all marital assets — even bank accounts in his wife's name that he "does not have any personal knowledge of."

She filed her own divorce petition in Leon County on Dec. 11, alleging that the senator is defaulting on the mortgage of their $450,000 Miami home, where his relatives live, and spending her earnings. She wants a judge to "unequally" divide their assets, taking into account her higher earnings and his "spending without the Wife's consent/agreement."

The Times/Herald found no record of foreclosure proceedings. She declined to comment.

Mrs. Diaz de la Portilla, whose maiden name is Davant, alleges in the divorce petition that the senator's relatives are living in the Miami home off SW 19th Street — yet he "does not believe that he is financially responsible."

Mrs. Diaz de la Portilla also alleges that the senator is "unable and unwilling to assist with the repair and upkeep" of their Tallahassee home.

The couple married Sept. 28, 2003, in a $599 ceremony in Las Vegas' "Elvis Chapel."

She alleges in her petition that she has contributed far more financially to the marriage, and that she, "to her detriment, has removed funds from retirement assets to reduce the Husband's debts at his urging."

Sen. Diaz de la Portilla claimed a few years back that he was too cash-strapped to pay a $17,000 fine to the Florida Elections Commission for his failure to comply with elections laws. During a five-hour hearing, a review of the senator's bank and credit card statements depicted him as a big cash spender who frequents casinos in Biloxi and Las Vegas.

Diaz de la Portilla told the commission that in the summer of 2004, he borrowed $25,000 from his wife to pay some debts and then loaned $15,000 of it to Julio Giullen, his legislative aide. He also said he did not contribute any money toward the $795,000 Tallahassee house — even though his name appears on the deed and mortgage.

The senator and his wife, who have no children, also are listed as owners of the 2,800-square-foot Miami home, where the couple enjoys a homestead exemption.

In his latest financial disclosure form, filed December 2008, Sen. Diaz de la Portilla claims a net worth of $286,850. The figure comes from the Miami and Tallahassee homes he lists as assets, along with investment accounts and checking accounts worth $13,250. It also comes from liabilities including his $28,400 Lexus and mortgages totalling more than $1 million through banks based in Oklahoma and New Jersey.

Diaz de la Portilla's annual income includes $70,000 from the W Strategies consulting firm in Miami and the $31,254 he received as a legislator for 2008.

One of his brothers, Renier, serves on the Miami-Dade school board. His other brother, Miguel, is vying to succeed him in the Florida Senate.

Mrs. Diaz de la Portilla is senior partner at National Strategies Inc., a lobbying firm that represents a number of clients including Reynolds American tobacco and Florida Energy Associates, the group pushing offshore oil drilling. The five-member firm's compensation for July 2009 through September 2009 was a range of $250,000 to $499,000, according to reports filed with the state.

Shannon Colavecchio can be reached at scolavecchio@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Clarification: Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla lists among his liabilities two mortgages worth $1 million from banks based in New Jersey and Oklahoma. An earlier version of this story was unclear on that point.

Senate Republican leader files for divorce from lobbyist wife 12/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:59am]

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