Ethics panel waives fine against Ben Parks

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The Florida Commission on Ethics has waived an $800 fine against former lobbyist Ben Parks.

Commissioners made the decision at their meeting Friday.

Parks had been automatically fined $50 a day for late-filing his third-quarter lobbying compensation reports last year, according to a proposed order.

State law provides for a one-time fine waiver for a late report, but Parks already used that in 2013, the document explains.

On Friday, commissioners were swayed by the string of misfortunes the 62-year-old said he suffered in recent months.

He suffers from “depression, anxiety and high blood pressure” and his home had been burglarized last November, causing a loss of his documents.

Parks also said his bank account was frozen this May after fraudulent checks had been written on his account. Those and other reasons constitute “unusual circumstances” that merited a waiver of the fine, staff said.

He recently pleaded no contest to a charge that he ran a drug house out of his Tallahassee home, according to Leon County court dockets.

Other charges related to illegal drug possession were referred to the county’s confidential drug court for disposition, records show.

Parks, the former longtime lobbyist for the Florida Farm Bureau, was arrested in late February with seven others after neighbors complained that as many as nine people appeared to be living in his five-bedroom house in the upscale Ox Bottom neighborhood.

While searching Parks’ home, police found various drugs and paraphernalia and described it as “a communal living setting.”

A neighbor previously told FloridaPolitics.com Parks was allowing recently released jail and prison inmates to stay at the home.

Parks, a graduate of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, did not register to lobby during the 2016 Legislative Session, according to state records. He also previously represented Florida Crystals Corp.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor 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 [email protected]



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