The chairman of the Hardee County committee which handed over millions of dollar to a state representative from Tampa to start a tech company is on the hook for thousands of dollars in fines. 10Investigates first broke this story three years ago.
The $4,000 fine is the largest fine the Florida Ethics Commission has handed down in five years.
The ethics commission cited Rick Justice, the chairman of the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority, for taking economic grants and keeping them in his bank.
Justice is the president of the First National Bank of Wauchula and as that money was sitting in an account, his bank profited.
One of those monetary grants went to Representative Jamie Grant who, at the time, had no company or product when he applied for the grant but still received millions.
- Previous Story: 10 Investigates what happened to money given to local lawmaker
- More: Ethics Commission fines former Hardee official
We talked to Justice and he admitted he violated the Ethics Laws, but says it was because he didn't sign two disclosure forms he didn't know about.
Justice says decided to pay the fine instead of fighting it and caused the Industrial Development Authority to have to pay his legal fees.
But the Ethics Commission says he was in clear violation just by the fact he did business at a bank where he was an officer. These fines are a big deal. Last year, there were only two statewide.