PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The Florida Senate ethics committee chairman wants a criminal investigation into elected officials who appear to live outside the districts they represent.
"I think it's really a crying shame that we have as many as half a dozen Florida state legislators who are violating the [Florida] Constitution every single day by living outside their district," said Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican from Clearwater. "I think you've done the people of Florida, or at least South Florida, a great service by exposing how many of these legislators are violating the constitution."
Local 10 investigated Florida House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, State Representatives Jared Moskowitz and Hazelle Rogers, and State Senator Maria Sachs, who all have homes outside the districts they represent. Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness also claims to live in a condo in his district that the station found .
The Florida Constitution requires all legislators to live in the districts they represent and those legislators have to swear that they meet the requirements.
"Signing a false oath is a third-degree felony and if we've got members of the legislature who have done that, then we ought to have that examined and investigated," Latvala said.
Latvala said he has contacted the Gov. Rick Scott's office, Senate President Don Gaetz, and House Speaker Will Weatherford about the issue. He wants Scott to order an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"I'm going to have all three of those officials to take action, so we can get to the bottom of this issue for the people of the state of Florida," Latvala said.
The Florida Bar also began a review of the residency of Thurston, whom Local 10 caught at his Plantation home outside his district. He offered no comment when asked recently about the Bar investigation. An ethics claim has also been filed against Sachs, who was seen on undercover video staying outside her district in her $1.5 million estate in Boca Raton while claiming to live in a small condo in Fort Lauderdale.
"I would be very surprised if she's ever spent a single night in her district in that 740-square foot condominium," Latvala said.