PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Several South Florida elected officials don't appear to be living in the districts where they were elected -- which is in violation of the Florida Constitution.
Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, for one, claims to live in a rundown home on Northwest 7th Terrace in Fort Lauderdale (pictured right).
But Thurston was caught by Local 10 investigative reporter Bob Norman living in his much larger longtime home in a more upscale neighborhood in Plantation (pictured above).
The Florida Constitution demands that Thurston and all other state reps live in the districts they represent, but neighbor Willa Mae Gibson said he doesn't live in the home he claims in his district.
"That's his mama house, Perry's brother and his wife stay there," said Gibson. "I don't know where [Perry lives] ... nowhere in this neighborhood."
Norman caught Perry at his Plantation home on a recent morning.
"Are you supposed to be living here, Perry? Can I talk with you a second?" asked Norman.
"Nah," replied Thurston.
"You're not in your district," said Norman.
"I am," said Thurston, who then shut the door on Norman.
"If you're going to represent the area, live in it," said Suzanne Leary, who lives in Lauderdale Lakes. "It's like live here and deal with what we're dealing with."
Florida Rep. Hazelle Rogers claims to live in Leary's condominium (picture above). Leary said she rarely sees her.
"I think she maintains the condo because she's elected in this area," said Leary. "I think they have a house somewhere else."
Rogers does in fact own a home a few miles away (pictured right) outside her district. She didn't offer a comment to Local 10.
Florida Rep. Jared Moskowitz won in a Coral Springs district, which effectively barred him from living in his own home with his wife at the Parkland Golf and Country Club (pictured above). Moskowitz claims to live in a Coral Springs apartment several miles away.
"The apartment is where I live," Moskowitz told Norman by phone. "I woke up there this morning."
When Local 10 visited Moskowitz's apartment (pictured right) that same day, an envelope dated several days before was stuffed in the door crack. The property manager said he put the envelope there a few days before.
Moskowitz said he had never seen the letter.
"If you never saw the letter, that means you weren't at the apartment, are you sticking by that you slept in your apartment this week?" Norman asked Moskowitz.
Moskowitz stuck by his story despite the obvious inconsistency. Numerous other politicians have been snared in residency controversies over the years, including state representatives Jim Waldman and Joe Gibbons, but authorities often overlook such cases.
Both Thurston and Moskowitz failed to relinquish their homestead tax exemptions on their main residences before claiming to move out of them, prompting Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish to remove those exemptions.
"A lot of [politicians] have called through the years," said Parrish, pointing out that former Congressman Allen West didn't live in his district while serving in office. "They want to run for something and they want to move."