COMMISSION ON ETHICS
IN RE: CHERYL W. KEEL
Complaint No. 05-093
FINAL ORDER AND PUBLIC REPORT
This matter came before the State of
This matter began with the filing of a complaint on July 8, 2005, by William Abrams alleging that the Respondent, Cheryl W. Keel, as an employee of the St. Johns River Water Management District, used the District's purchasing card to make nearly $20,000 in personal purchases and may have also misused the District's email system in violation of Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes. The allegations were found to be legally sufficient to allege a possible violation of the Code of Ethics and Commission staff undertook a preliminary investigation to aid in the determination of probable cause. On October 25, 2006, the Commission on Ethics issued an order finding probable cause to believe that the Respondent had violated Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, by using the District's purchasing card to make nearly $20,000 in personal purchases. No probable cause was found on the misuse of the email system allegation. The matter was then forwarded to the Division of Administrative Hearings for assignment of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to conduct a hearing and prepare a recommended order. The formal hearing was held on April 16, 2008. The transcript was filed with the ALJ on April 29, 2008, and the Advocate timely filed her Proposed Recommended Order on May 9, 2008. The Respondent did not file anything. The ALJ’s Recommended Order was transmitted to the Commission and to the parties on May 16, 2008, and the parties were notified of their right to file exceptions to the Recommended Order. Neither the Respondent nor the Advocate filed exceptions to the Recommended Order.
The matter is now before the Commission for final agency action.
STANDARDS FOR REVIEW
Under Section 120.57(1)(l), 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 ALJ 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
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 ALJ. 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 ALJ, the Commission is bound by that finding.
Under Section 120.57(1)(l), Florida Statutes, an agency may reject or modify the conclusions of law over which it has substantive jurisdiction and interpretation of administrative rules over which it has substantive jurisdiction. When rejecting or modifying such conclusion of law or interpretation of administrative rule, the agency must state with particularity its reasons for rejecting or modifying such conclusion of law or interpretation of administrative rule and must make a finding that its substituted conclusion of law or interpretation of administrative rule is as or more reasonable than that which was rejected or modified.
Having reviewed the Recommended Order, the Commission makes the following findings, conclusions, rulings and recommendations.
FINDINGS OF FACT
The Findings of Fact as set forth in the Recommended Order are approved, adopted, and incorporated herein by reference.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The Conclusions of Law as set forth in the Recommended Order are approved, adopted, and incorporated herein by reference.
2. Accordingly, the Commission on Ethics concludes that the Respondent, while an employee of the St. Johns River Water Management District, violated Section 112.313(6), Florida Statutes, by wrongly and corruptly using her State of Florida purchasing card to enrich herself.
The ALJ recommended that the Respondent be required to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 and restitution in the amount of $18,259.09; and that she be publicly censured and reprimanded. The recommended penalty is hereby accepted.
In consideration of the foregoing and pursuant to Sections 112.317 and 112.324, Florida Statutes, the Commission recommends that the Governor impose on Cheryl W. Keel a civil penalty of $10,000 and restitution in the amount of $18,259.09; and that she be publicly censured and reprimanded.
and ORDERED by the State of
Albert P. Massey, III
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, 3600 Maclay Boulevard South, Suite 201, P.O. DRAWER 15709, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32317-5709; 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: Ms. Cheryl W. Keel, Respondent
Ms. Jennifer M. Erlinger, Commission Advocate
Mr. William Abrams, Complainant
The Honorable Harry L. Hooper, Administrative Law Judge
Division of Administrative Hearings