1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Andrew Gillum’s ethics fine: Is $5,000 a lot or not?

It’s far more than most penalties levied by the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Photos of Gillum's trip in NYC. Andrew Gillum, Adam Corey Undercover FBI agents were the ones who gave Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a ticket to the Broadway show Hamilton during a trip to New York City in 2016, according to a trove of records given to the ethics commission and released to the public today. Text messages between Gillum and former lobbyist Adam Corey, who arranged outings with undercover agents looking into city corruption, were among more than 100 pages of records Corey gave the ethics commission, which is investigating trips to Costa Rica and New York that Gillum took in 2016. Corey's lawyer, Chris Kise, released the records today, just two weeks before the election, because the state ethics commission issued a subpoena for the records just last week.
Published Apr. 27
Updated Apr. 27

There was Frank Peterman, Jr., a state secretary whose excessive travel between Tallahassee and his St. Petersburg home cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

And John “Jack” London, an ex-Mornoe County commissioner who illegally lobbied his former colleagues to approve a controversial and scandal-plagued sewage deal.

What do these former public officials have in common with former Tallahassee mayor and Democratic nominee for governor Andrew Gillum? A $5,000 fine from the Florida Commission on Ethics.

On Wednesday, Gillum agreed to settle his state ethics case stemming from the investigation into trips with a Tallahassee businessman to Costa Rica and New York for the Broadway hit Hamilton. In reaching an agreement, a state ethics commission lawyer said she would drop four of five charges if Gillum paid a $5,000 fine.

RELATED: Andrew Gillum agrees to $5,000 ethics fine.

Records show FBI agents gave Andrew Gillum tickets to ‘Hamilton’

Andrew Gillum’s ethics case continues after Florida commission finds cause

Gillum said the settlement was “vindication” that he never knowingly broke the law, but the size of the fine was much higher than the typical penalty from the state’s ethics watchdog.

Since 1975, the Florida Commission on Ethics has found violations of state and local laws in 929 cases, according to a Tampa Bay Times review of a state database of fines. Of those cases, Gillum’s fine was in the top 8 percent.

Half the cases with fines were for less than $630. That median rose in the last decade — to about $1,000 — but that’s still a fraction of what Gillum agreed to pay.

The Florida Commission on Ethics is limited in what it can investigate. The agency reviews complaints that a public official violated state ethics statutes, which are civil offenses. A law enforcement agency would handle a corruption probe. The commission recommends the fine and someone else, usually the governor, decides whether it stands.

The maximum fine for violating an ethics law is $10,000, though multiple violations can lead to higher penalties. The commission can also demand an official pay restitution if they’re accused of taking from government coffers. Rarely is someone fined $10,000 or more.

Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera was. The state ethics board fined Rivera $16,500 after he failed to disclose consulting income from a casino when he worked in the Legislature. According to the investigation, Rivera helped the gaming industry pass legislation and the casino paid Rivera through a consulting firm in his mother’s name, which then sent the money to the Republican lawmaker.

The highest fine of the last four decades went to a former St. Petersburg warehouse employee who steered city purchases to his business during the 1990s. The commission recommended a $40,000 fine.

Gillum’s troubles with the ethics commission escalated in January when commissioners unanimously found probable cause that he illegally accepted gifts valued over $100 from Tallahassee businessman and lobbyist Adam Corey and two undercover FBI agents posing as developers. In the agreement with the ethics commission, Gillum acknowledged that he “should have known that they were given to influence action.” The full commission must still vote on the agreement.

The trips to Costa Rica and New York hindered Gillum throughout his unsuccessful campaign for governor. His Republican opponent Ron DeSantis often cited the FBI investigation into Tallahassee government on the trail, in ads and during debates. Gillum has insisted he is not the subject of the federal probe.

It’s unclear how Gillum and the ethics commission lawyer settled on a $5,000 fine. It’s an amount that has been used to penalize serious offenses by state officials as well as bizarre misconduct by local politicians.

In 2015, the commission slapped Charlotte County Commissioner Robert Skidmore with a $5,000 fine after he allegedly tried to get a city official to approve a liquor license for a constituent in exchange for a NASCAR autograph. He also offered a pay raise to another city worker if she shut down a restaurant owned by the father of his wife’s child.

Renee Lee, a Hillsborough County attorney who covertly received a pay bump without her board knowing and then broke the law to justify it, was fined $5,000.

It’s also the penalty the ethics board recommended last year for Madeira Beach City Commissioner Nancy Oakley after after she was accused of drunkenly berating other city officials, licking the city manager’s face and grabbing one by the crotch.

MORE: Oakley resigns after being fined for licking Shane Crawford’s face and groping him at a public event.

Madeira Beach’s dirty laundry gets aired during ethics hearing

And $5,000 is not much less than the $6,000 the commission in 2018 fined Rick Fernandez, a former Tallahassee city manager accused, in part, of accepting Florida State University football tickets.

Who gave Fernandez the tickets? The same lobbyist at the center of Gillum’s case — Adam Corey.


  1. Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, while a federal judge heard arguments for an against the the Legislature's bill implementing Amendment 4. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    It’s unclear how state and county officials plan on complying with the judge’s order, however. The “poll tax” issued wasn’t addressed, either.
  2. The Florida Capitol. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The job entails being a part-time lobbyist, part-time expert on the Florida Sunshine Law.
  3. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  4. Igor Fruman, hugs Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, as Lev Parnas looks on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando at the watch party for DeSantis. Fruman and Parnas were arrested last week on campaign finance violations. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Florida’s governor has shrugged off past donor controversies. This time, there were photos. Now it’s not going away.
  5. The sun sets over a slab which once served as a foundation for a home on Mexico Beach in May. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Area leaders fear lower population numbers will lead to reduced federal funding and political representation.
  6. Senador de Florida, Rick Scott.  Foto: AP
    “The FBI has failed to give me or these families an acceptable answer, but I’m not going to allow that,” Scott said, adding that the FBI didn’t share pertinent information on shootings at Pulse, the...
  7. Courtney Wild, 30, was a victim of serial sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein beginning at the age of 14. Epstein paid Wild, and many other underage girls, to give him massages, often having them undress and perform sexual acts. Epstein also used the girls as recruiters, paying them to bring him other underage girls. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
    Courtney Wild’s relentless quest for justice has led to a bipartisan push for sweeping reforms.
  8. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Sept. 25, in Davie. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Naples lawyer Dudley Goodlette was threatened shortly after he made his recommendation last month.
  9. Rep. Jamie Grant, R- Tampa and Senator Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg listen to Amendment 4 debate in the Florida Senate on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “I think some of the points of the judge were well-made," Sen. Jeff Brandes said.
  10. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    The Florida Department of Children and Families started a review of a domestic violence nonprofit’s finances last summer after it was reported that its CEO Tiffany Carr was paid $761,000. The state...