STATE OF FLORIDA
COMMISSION ON ETHICS
In re PATTY LYNCH, DOAH Case No. 94-2068EC
Complaint No. 92-147
Respondent. Final Order No. COE 94-44
FINAL ORDER AND PUBLIC REPORT
This matter came before the Commission on Ethics on the Recommended Order rendered in this matter on August 19, 1994 by the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) [a copy of which is attached and incorporated by reference]. The Hearing Officer recommends that the Commission enter a final order and public report finding that the Respondent violated Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, recommending that a civil penalty of $500 be imposed upon the Respondent, and recommending that the Respondent be publicly censured and reprimanded.
Neither the Respondent nor the Advocate filed exceptions to the Recommended Order. The complete record of this matter under Section 120.57(1)(b)6, Florida Statutes, was not placed before the Commission. Both the Respondent and the Advocate, pursuant to notice, appeared at the Commission's final consideration of this matter and both made argument concerning the Commission's penalty recommendation.
Under Section 120.57(1)(b)10, Florida Statutes, an agency may reject or modify the conclusions of law and interpretations of administrative rules contained in the recommended order. However, the agency may not reject or modify findings of fact made by the Hearing Officer unless a review of the entire record demonstrates that the findings were not based on competent, substantial evidence or that the proceedings on which the findings were based did not comply with the essential requirements of law. See, e.g., Freeze v. Dept. of Business Regulation, 556 So.2d 1204 (Fla. 5th DCA 1990); and Florida Department of Corrections v. Bradley, 510 So.2d 1122 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987). Competent, substantial evidence has been defined by the Florida Supreme Court as such evidence as is "sufficiently relevant and material that a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to support the conclusions reached." DeGroot v. Sheffield, 95 So.2d 912, 916 (Fla. 1957).
The agency may not reweigh the evidence, resolve conflicts therein, or judge the credibility of witnesses, because those are matters within the sole province of the hearing officer. Heifetz v. Dept. of Business Regulation, 475 So.2d 1277, 1281 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985). Consequently, if the record of the DOAH proceedings discloses any competent, substantial evidence to support a finding of fact made by the Hearing Officer, the Commission is bound by that finding.
Having reviewed the Recommended Order and having considered the arguments of the Respondent and the Advocate made before the Commission at its final consideration of this matter, the Commission makes the following findings, conclusions, rulings, and recommendations:
FINDINGS OF FACT
The Findings of Fact set forth in the Recommended Order are approved, adopted, and incorporated herein by reference.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The Conclusions of Law set forth in the Recommended Order are approved, adopted, and incorporated herein by reference, except for conclusion of law 26 (essentially a penalty recommendation), which is modified as herein specified in the penalty section of this Final Order and Public Report.
2. The Commission finds that the Respondent, Patty Lynch, as an employee of the Walton County Tax Collector's Office, violated Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, by soliciting votes for her preferred candidate for Walton County Tax Collector from users of the Tax Collector's Office.
Pursuant to Sections 112.317 and 112.324, Florida Statutes, the Commission on Ethics hereby recommends that a civil penalty of $100.00 (one hundred dollars) be imposed upon the Respondent and that she be publicly censured and reprimanded. The civil penalty is reduced from the amount recommended by the Hearing Officer because the Respondent's statements to the Commission at its final consideration of this matter indicate that the Respondent has already been "penalized" in a monetary manner through her expenditure of legal fees in defense of this ethics matter.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on Thursday, October 13th, 1994.
October 18, 1994
R. Terry Rigsby
THIS ORDER CONSTITUTES FINAL AGENCY ACTION. ANY PARTY WHO IS ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY THIS ORDER HAS THE RIGHT TO SEEK JUDICIAL REVIEW UNDER SECTION 120.68, FLORIDA STATUTES, BY FILING A NOTICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL PURSUANT TO RULE 9.110, FLORIDA RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE, WITH THE CLERK OF THE COMMISSION ON ETHICS, 2822 REMINGTON GREEN CIRCLE, SUITE 101, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32308; OR P. O. DRAWER 15709, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32317-5709; AND BY FILING A COPY OF THE NOTICE OF APPEAL ACCOMPANIED BY THE APPLICABLE FILING FEES WITH THE APPROPRIATE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL. THE NOTICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL MUST BE FILED WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE DATE THIS ORDER IS RENDERED.
Mr. E. Allan Rainey, Attorney for Respondent
Mr. Michael E. Ingram, Special Commission Advocate
Ms. Sherry Sylvester, Complainant
Ms. Patty Lynch, Respondent
Division of Administrative Hearings