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An ethics case involving Florida Agriculture Commissioner Fried will get an administrative hearing

Nikki Fried stands at a podium to concede her loss in the Democratic gubernatorial primary on Aug 23, 2022 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Marta Lavandier
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried concedes the race to U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist Aug. 23, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Crist will face incumbent Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in November.

An administrative law judge will hold a hearing on allegations that Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried violated state law by not properly disclosing personal financial information.

The state Commission on Ethics this week sent the case to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, where a judge will conduct a hearing. The ethics commission in December issued an order finding “probable cause” that Fried did not properly report income in 2017 and 2018 on financial-disclosure forms.

Commission staff members started an investigation after Evan Power, a Leon County Republican leader and lobbyist, filed a complaint in June 2021. The complaint came after Fried filed amended financial-disclosure forms that showed substantially more income in 2017 and 2018 than she previously reported.

Before getting elected agriculture commissioner in 2018, Fried was a medical-marijuana lobbyist.

In a written response last year to the allegations, Fried’s attorney, Benedict Kuehne, described the complaint as “meritless” and a “calculated political effort to impugn Commissioner Fried’s integrity during the election season.”

State elected officials and candidates are required by law to file annual forms that detail information such as income, assets, liabilities and net worth. Generally, the reports reflect financial information from the end of the prior year. For example, a report filed in 2018 would reflect financial information from 2017. They are designed, at least in part, to shed light on any conflicts of interest for public officials.

Fried lost last month’s Democratic gubernatorial primary to Charlie Crist.