Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Friday dismissed the probable cause finding that she violated state ethics laws and suggested it was to be expected from a commission appointed by her partisan adversaries.
On Wednesday, the Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause Fried violated state law when she failed to initially disclose $400,000 in lobbying income when she ran for office in 2018.
Fried, the only Democrat holding statewide elected office in Florida, is challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis for Governor in 2022. On Friday, when asked about the Commission’s findings, she dismissed it as what she expected from a panel appointed by Republican leaders, including DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
“It’s interesting to have an Ethics Commission that is appointed by the Governor, the Senate President, and the Speaker and to think there would have been any other type of results,” Fried said during a news conference she held in Palm Beach County to discuss her office’s new polystyrene rules.
Before her election to Agriculture Commissioner, Fried worked as a lobbyist for the medical marijuana industry.
Evan Power, chair of the Leon County Republican Party, filed an ethics complaint against Fried in June after the Commissioner amended her 2018 financial disclosures and revealed she earned $351,480 from Igniting Florida, as well as her 2017 disclosures to show she made $165,671 in consulting fees, not just $84,000 as previously disclosed.
Both amendments to Fried’s disclosures were cited in a press release published by the Ethics Commission.
“The Commission considered a complaint filed against Commissioner of Agriculture Nicole Heather Fried. Probable cause was found on allegations she violated Florida’s Constitution and financial disclosure law by failing to accurately disclose income on her 2017 and 2018 Form 6 disclosure filings,” the Commission wrote.
Fried’s initial response, released Wednesday by her campaign spokesperson Drew Godinich, dismissed Power as “a disgraced Republican Party official” who “filed a false and fraudulent ethics complaint against Commissioner Fried.”
“Consistent with the administration’s regular practice of feeding false information to its subordinate agencies, Commissioner Fried is being attacked for following the law and showing transparency, exactly the opposite of what Republican Ron DeSantis and his cohorts do every day.”
Jacob Ogles of the Florida Politics staff contributed to this report.
Last updated on December 10, 2021