St. Petersburg, Florida -- The state ethics commission says there is sufficient evidence to conduct a probe of Tampa state representative Jamie Grant, who was the subject of several 10 News Investigator stories.
The ethics commission sent out a letter saying it was launching a full investigation as the result of allegations Grant and two other legislators received $2.6 million in public money from Hardee County despite having no company or product when they applied for the money, according to the state auditor general.
Although Grant has maintained all along there was nothing wrong with the deal, the auditor general found problems, and said the way the money was given to Grant was not consistent with Florida statutes.
In addition, the auditor general found that when Grant and his partners sold the company, which was funded by the public, they didn't get the required permission from Hardee County. Grant and his partners received more than a million shares of stock in the new company.
Grant says, "I look forward to providing the ethics commission with every corporate and financial document needed to establish these allegations as baseless so we can get back to furthering the success of this project without politically motivated distractions."
In addition to opening an investigation, the ethics commission is also investigating several Hardee County officials, including county commission chairman Rick Knight, former chairperson Sue Birge, industrial development chair Jim See, and economic director Bill Lambert, who approved and helped engineer the deal with Grant.
The ethics commission outright rejects more than two thirds of the complaints it receives each year, but says the allegations in this case deserve a full investigation.
Following the investigation, the matter will be sent to the members of the ethics commission who will vote if there is probable cause that ethics rules were violated.
The commission can fine up to $10,000, censure a public official, or in the most severe case remove the official from office.