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Senate to decide Norman's fate in ethics complaint

The state Ethics Commission on Friday sent Sen. Jim Norman's financial disclosure case to the Florida Senate, where his lawyer said he will argue against any penalty.  James Call reports, the Tampa Republican faces charges that he failed to disclose a $500,000 gift to his wife when he ran for the Senate in 2010.

Norman’s lawyer says a Hillsborough County attorney advised Norman, who was a county commissioner at the time, that he didn’t have to disclose it.  

The money was used to renovate a lakefront home in Arkansas. Mark Levine maintains that Norman’s wife is an independent business woman who doesn’t update her husband on every agreement she negotiates. Levine says Senator Norman was unaware of the transaction until it was well underway.

  "If you know his wife, she is very independent,always been an entrepreneurial individual and has always worked outside of the home. I mean, Senator Norman had his job. He had his county commission position, he didn’t mess with her stuff and I mean, that’s the kind of relationship they had. And to this day there is nothing different about that.  I mean, they are both independent in terms of what they do to bring money into the household and it’s not his job to question her judgment. He never has he has great respect for Marlene. "

Questions about the deal have followed Norman from the Hillsborough County Commission to the Florida Senate. In a stipulation approved by the Ethics Commission, Norman admits he should have listed the money and the home bought with it on financial disclosure forms in 07, 08, and 09. He was elected to the Senate in 2010. The chamber will now decide his fate. Dan Krassner with Integrity Florida, a non-partisan research organization which exposes corruption in government, is using the Norman case to call on lawmakers to uphold strict ethical standards for public officials.

"I’m married, if my wife received a $500,000 vacation home I would hope I would know about it. So the idea that someone didn’t know about that asset and inadvertently failed to disclose it on a financial disclosure form just doesn’t pass the smell test. I hope the Senate takes this issue seriously. Failure to disclose a $500,000 asset is something that should concern all taxpayers. We want to make sure public servants are doing the public business, not gaining privately based on their position."

Norman’s case will be forwarded to the Senate. His lawyer will ask that no penalty be imposed on the lawmaker, because the failure to disclose was, in the attorney’s words, an inadvertent ministerial mistake.