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2020

State Ethics Commission dismisses complaint against Byron Donalds

The complaint was filed before the Republican primary.

The Florida Commission on Ethics dismissed an ethics complaint against Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican.

The decision came after Donalds won the Republican nomination in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. In the midst of the contentious primary, former Collier County School Board member Kelly Lichter filed a complaint with the state accusing Donalds of lying about his arrest record when he applied for multiple appointments and licenses.

But the Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint as legally insufficient.

“I’m glad that the Florida Ethics Commission reviewed this frivolous complaint and realized there was no legal sufficiency,” Donalds said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that this kind of stuff happens in political campaigns. My focus now is on the general election and taking my message to the voters of Southwest Florida and hopefully I can earn their support to be their Congressman.”

It was among 11 such complaints tossed on Wednesday based on jurisdictional questions and determinations as to whether the documents adequately alleged violations of Florida’s Code or Ethics or other laws. “As no factual investigation precedes the reviews, the Commission’s conclusions do not reflect on the accuracy of the allegations made in these complaints,” reads a release from the Commission.

Lichter’s accusations dated back years, but drew additional scrutiny on Donalds’ arrest record, including a 1997 misdemeanor charge for distributing marijuana dismissed as part of a diversion agreement, and a 2000 arrest for receiving bribes. Lichter said Donalds failed to reveal the information when he applied to serve on the Board of Trustees for Florida SouthWestern State College or when he applied to the Financial Industry Regulator Authority and Florida Department of Financial Affairs for a license to sell securities.

She also said he did not provide the information when he put in for a board position as Mason Classical Academy, which Lichter founded with the help of Donalds’ wife Erika Donalds. Lichter and Erika Donalds both served together on the Collier County School Board but have since had a falling out.

Donalds, for his part, said he was always forthright with information.

“Mrs. Lichter is lying. I disclosed, as required by Florida law, to the board of Mason Classical Academy and to the Collier County School Board. She was present at that meeting,” he said when the complaint was filed.

“She could have filed this complaint at any time over the last six years. This is clearly motivated by my rise in the polls.”

Having won the primary in a heavily Republican district, Donalds is now the favorite to win a seat in the House. But Democratic opponent Cindy Banyai has continued to criticize his arrest record.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sonja Fitch

    September 17, 2020 at 7:50 am

    “Bribes”. Qualified to run as a goptrump cult member! Vote Blue! Vote Democrat up and down ballot!

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