STATE OF FLORIDA
COMMISSION ON ETHICS
In re RICHARD GLASS, )
Respondent. ) Complaint No. 96-136
) Final Order No. 99-12
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES
This matter came before the State of Florida Commission on Ethics on its own motion for consideration of Eileen Moran’s Petition For Attorney’s Fees.
From the Commission's records it appears that after the Commission concluded its handling of the underlying ethics complaint in this matter, Richard Glass (the Respondent in the complaint, hereinafter “Glass”) unsuccessfully sought costs and attorney fees from Eileen Moran (the Complainant in the complaint, hereinafter “Moran”). See the Commission’s Final Order Dismissing Petition For Costs And Attorney Fees rendered March 17, 1999. Thereafter, on April 20, 1999, Moran filed her instant petition, apparently arguing that she is entitled to a costs/fee award against Glass under the Commission’s attorney fee rule (Rule 34-5.0291, F.A.C.) because she prevailed against Glass in his costs/fee action against her.
The petition does not state a claim for costs and fees cognizable by the Commission. It does not cite any authority or basis for an award by the Commission in a situation where an original complainant seeks fees and costs from an original respondent. Further, Florida law follows the “American Rule” (that costs and fees may only be awarded pursuant to an entitling statute or agreement of the parties); Section 112.317(8), Florida Statutes (the Commission’s costs/fee statute) only addresses a respondent’s seeking of an award against a complainant, and not vice versa; and statutes awarding costs and fees are to be strictly construed. See Dade County v. Pena, 664 So. 2d 959 (Fla. 1995).
Accordingly, we hereby deny and dismiss Moran’s petition.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on June 3, 1999.
Charles A. Stampelos
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, P.O. DRAWER 15709, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32317-5709 (physical address at 2822 Remington Green Circle, Suite 101); AND BY FILING A COPY OF THE NOTICE OF APPEAL ATTACHED TO WHICH IS A CONFORMED COPY OF THE ORDER DESIGNATED IN 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.
cc: Mr. Charles G. White, Attorney for Eileen Moran
Mr. Charles R. Rowe, Attorney for Richard Glass
Section 112.317(8), Florida Statutes, plainly addresses malicious ethics complaint filings and does not apply to allegedly malicious costs/fee petitions. Section 112.317(8) provides:
In any case in which the commission determines that a person has filed a complaint against a public officer or employee with a malicious intent to injure the reputation of such officer or employee by filing the complaint with knowledge that the complaint contains one or more false allegations or with reckless disregard for whether the complaint contains false allegations of fact material to a violation of this part, the complainant shall be liable for costs plus reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in the defense of the person complained against, including the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in proving entitlement to and the amount of costs and fees. If the complainant fails to pay such costs and fees voluntarily within 30 days following such finding by the commission, the commission shall forward such information to the Department of Legal Affairs, which shall bring a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction to recover the amount of such costs and fees awarded by the commission.
Similarly, the Commission’s rule for administration of the costs/fee statute clearly is limited to redress of malicious complaint filings. The rule provides in part:
If the Commission determines that a person has filed a complaint . . . with a malicious intent . . ., the complainant shall be liable for costs plus reasonable attorney’s fees . . . . [Rule 34-5.0291(1), F.A.C.]