STATE OF FLORIDA
COMMISSION ON ETHICS
In re MAXINE HOLST, RICHARD MCGATH,)
& MARSHA STRANGE, )
) Complaint Nos. 98-032,
Respondents. ) 98-033, & 98-037
) DOAH Nos. 99-0149FE,
) 99-0161FE, & 99-0162FE
) Final Order No. 99-024
FINAL ORDER DISMISSING PETITION
FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS
This matter came before the State of Florida Commission on Ethics, meeting in public session on November 30, 1999, pursuant to the Recommended Order of the Division of Administrative Hearings’ (DOAH) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) rendered in this matter on September 15, 1999, pursuant to Holst’s, McGath’s, and Strange’s Exception To Recommended Order dated September 29, 1999, and pursuant to Respondents’ and Complainant’s Stipulation For Voluntary Dismissal dated October 14, 1999. In this final order, Maxine Holst, Richard McGath, and Marsha Strange (Respondents in the original ethics complaint matters and Petitioners before DOAH regarding attorney fees and costs) will be referred to as “Respondents,” and Mary Lueders Burnett (Complainant in the original ethics complaint matters and Respondent before DOAH regarding attorney fees and costs) will be referred to as “Complainant.”
In her Recommended Order, the ALJ finds that the Complainant filed the ethics complaints against the Respondents with a malicious intent to injure their reputations by filing the complaints with knowledge that the complaints contained one or more false allegations or with reckless disregard for whether the complaints contained false allegations of fact material to a violation of Part III, Chapter 112, Florida Statutes, and recommends that a final order be entered finding that the Complainant is liable for attorney fees in the amount of $4,509.47 and costs in the amount of $231.98; in their Exception To Recommended Order, Respondents maintain that additional costs of $1,476.40 (court reporter attendance and transcription of DOAH hearing) and $255.00 (expert witness fee) should be awarded to them; and pursuant to their Stipulation For Voluntary Dismissal, Respondents and Complainant seek (from the ALJ) an order of dismissal of this matter based upon the Complainant’s having paid the sum of $6,472.85 to Respondents.
Initially, we note that after the issuance of a recommended order an agency (i.e., the Commission) may not be divested unilaterally of jurisdiction through voluntary dismissal, but, rather, retains the discretion to issue a final order on the merits if it finds it appropriate to do so under the circumstances. Wiregrass Ranch, Inc. V. Saddlebrook Resorts, Inc., 645 So. 2d 374 (Fla. 1994).
However, in view of the current state of affairs regarding this matter (especially the Complainant’s having paid Respondents the full amount sought by them as attorney fees and costs and both Respondents and Complainant seeking dismissal of this matter), we do not deem it appropriate to issue a final order on the merits of Respondents’ attorney fees and costs claims against Complainant.
Accordingly, in view of the foregoing, the Commission on Ethics dismisses this attorney fees and costs matter with prejudice.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on November 30, 1999.
Peter M. Dunbar
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. S. Scott Walker, Attorney for Respondents
Ms. Mary Lueders Burnett, Complainant
Clerk, Division of Administrative Hearings