TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Commission on Ethics has recommended Washington County Commissioner Todd Abbott pay a civil penalty of $3,500 for violating state ethics laws.
Filed with the state Feb. 2, the recommended order is the result of a joint stipulation by Abbott and the commission.
The stipulation accepts that Abbott violated Florida law twice, first with having a conflicting contractual relationship by providing janitorial services through his company, Inter-State Commercial Services, for the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) while DOC leased office space from the county. The stipulation asserts the second violation came when Abbott participated in a February 26, 2015 vote by the Board of Commissioners to increase rent for that same office, an action the ethics panel called a "matter that would inure to his special private gain."
The fine reflects a civil penalty of $1,750 per allegation. The state's maximum civil penalty is $10,000 per allegation.
Abbott says his agreement to the stipulation does not mean he agrees with the allegations because he "did not have intent" to violate state statute. The commissioner states he was simply trying to help DOC after the janitorial service company the state agency had contracted stopped showing up to work.
"My company held cleaning contracts with the county for many years before I was election, but I stopped those contracts before taking office to avoid any conflicts," said Abbott. "The only reason my company was cleaning the DOC office at that time is because the other company didn't fulfill their obligation. A representative who knew we had cleaned the offices in the past remembered that we were reliable and reached out to me for help. I was simply trying to help when called upon."
The recommendation is expected to receive final approval in March.