'Arduous' ethics saga of Frank Peterman finally nears end

Published May 31, 2013

It has been more than three years since Frank Peterman's extensive taxpayer-funded travel first captured the attention of the Commission on Ethics. The case of the former St. Petersburg legislator and former Gov. Charlie Crist's top juvenile justice official appears to finally be drawing to a close -- and i may not be the ending Peterman wanted.

The ethics panel recently sent Gov. Rick Scott a letter urging him to issue a public censure and reprimand of Peterman and fine him $5,000. That followed a decision by the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland, which upheld an administrative law judge's recommendation of the sanctions against Peterman. Scott -- who may yet face Crist in the election for governor next year -- has not taken action.

"It's been arduous and painful," said Peterman's attorney, Mark Herron of Tallahassee. "We have felt all along that it (the penalty) was inappropriate."

The Peterman investigation began after a private citizen, David Plyer of Clearwater, filed an ethics complaint based on news accounts by the Times/Herald.

Peterman reimbursed taxpayers about $25,000 in 2010 for frequent commutes between Tallahassee and St. Petersburg, where he continued to preach at a church during the time he served as Crist's secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice.The refunded money included excess charges for parking, luggage and airline fees for late changes in flight itineraries.

After making restitution, Peterman kept his $120,000-a-year job. An internal probe by Crist's inspector general, Melinda Miguel, concluded that many of the trips were questionable, and found that Crist's top aides, including chief of staff Eric Eikenberg and deputy chief of staff Lori Rowe, repeatedly warned Peterman to curtail his travel.