House ethics panel sets trial in Daisy Baez residency case - Florida Politics

House ethics panel sets trial in Daisy Baez residency case

The House’s ethics panel on Thursday set a Dec. 4 hearing on a charge that Democratic Miami-Dade Rep. Daisy Baez doesn’t live in the district she was elected to represent.

The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee will conduct an evidentiary hearing “somewhat like a court trial,” said chair Larry Metz, a Yalaha Republican. “You’re trying to find what the facts are and make a conclusion.”

The hearing will be the first time in modern memory that the House tried a member on a conduct violation related to residency. A scheduling order for the proceeding was released by the House later Thursday.

The committee’s verdict will then go to the full House of Representatives, two-thirds of which would have to vote to expel her.

The Select Subcommittee on Member Conduct already found “probable cause,” meaning more likely than not that a constitutional or legal offense occurred.

Mark Herron, Baez’s Tallahassee-based attorney, said despite recent precedent for such a proceeding, his client is “getting a heck of due process. But again, we’ll really know when I need to seek a subpoena” on her behalf, and it’s granted or denied.

The committee on Thursday authorized their own subpoenas for information on where Baez gets her personal U.S. mail, her business and banking records, telephone and electric service, and even one for the “Greater Miami Animal Hospital.”

Metz will serve as presiding officer, with Herron representing Baez at the trial, and vice chair Tom Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, acting as a prosecutor.

Baez was elected last year to represent South Florida’s House District 114, but questions soon arose whether she really lived in the neighboring District 112, represented by Democrat Nicholas Duran. 

The state constitution says “(e)ach legislator shall be … an elector and resident of the district from which elected.” The constitution also reserves to each legislative chamber the right to be the “sole judge” of its members’ qualifications.

The investigating subcommittee heard mixed evidence that she actually lives in the district she represents, including that Baez had a homestead exemption on a house and a driver’s license address outside the district, but was registered to vote within it.

Baez appeared to have had three “residences”: A Biltmore Way apartment and an Anderson Road condo, both inside the district, and a Malaga Avenue house in Coral Gables she bought in 2010, which is outside.

Leek said he also plans to subpoena neighbors and property managers at those addresses.

Baez told reporters earlier this week, “I believe I am a resident and I have evidence to support that … We want to move on with the business of working for the people of Florida.”

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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