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Judge in hotel stays case to get another look

The Florida Supreme Court has rejected proposed penalties for a Miami-Dade County judge who faces discipline after an investigation into free hotel stays in Miami Beach, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

The Supreme Court, which in recent years has taken an increasingly tough stance on judicial misconduct, sent the case of Judge Maria Ortiz back to the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which oversees investigations.

The Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ordered the commission to hold a full hearing and to “fully develop the facts regarding any misconduct that occurred, so that the (Supreme) Court, in determining the appropriate discipline, will be apprised of all the facts and circumstances bearing on the alleged violations.”

The commission recommended last month that Ortiz pay a $5,000 fine and receive a public reprimand from the Supreme Court for failing to properly disclose the 2015 and 2016 hotel stays.

That recommendation, which the Supreme Court rejected in its Friday order, came after Ortiz admitted she had not properly reported the information on financial-disclosure forms. It also came after Ortiz’s husband, Mariano Fernandez, who served as director of the Building Department for the city of Miami Beach, was charged with felony counts of receiving unlawful compensation, according to the documents filed at the Supreme Court. Fernandez was accused of helping RIU Hotel Group in Miami Beach with permitting problems and receiving free accommodations.

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