After state judge abdicates, Commission on Ethics to give “MAGA Warrior” rare do-over hearing

ethics commission
State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay with former President Donald Trump at last November’s Florida Freedom Summit in Kissimmee.

By Dan Christensen,

In a highly unusual move, Florida’s Commission on Ethics will reconsider charges against controversial Republican State Rep. Randy Fine that it previously found probable cause to believe were true: that he abused and misused his elected office.

A state administrative law judge who was scheduled to hold a public hearing/trial in the politically sensitive case starting May 14 instead has relinquished control and shipped it back to the ethics commission for a do-over. The judge was assigned the case last July.

The flip-flop came at the request of Fine’s politically connected attorney, Richard Coates. In a motion to the court on April 16, Coates suggested that Fine had been a victim of “potential disparate treatment.”

Coates, general counsel to the Republican Party of Florida from 2011-2014 and a member of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Transition Advisory Committee on Government Operations, also told the judge he had “conferred with the [ethics commission] Advocate Elizabeth Miller” and was “authorized” by her to say that she did not oppose his request for a new hearing.

ethics commission
Richard Coates

But Miller had abruptly quit her job as chief assistant of the state attorney general’s ethics bureau four days earlier. Coates did not respond to a Florida Bulldog request for comment. Miller, through her husband, declined to comment.

Nevertheless, Coates appears to have persuaded Judge James H. Peterson III. Peterson granted his motion the next day, April 17, canceling the trial set for May 14-16. The judge gave no reason for his decision.


An official at the ethics commission said no rehearing date has been scheduled. But Fine can expect a friendlier bunch during his second go-round. Six of the seven commissioners who voted against him last year are gone. And the new group includes Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich, who continues to serve even though the Florida Senate declined to confirm her appointment by DeSantis.

State Rep. Randy Fine and ethics commissioner Tina Descovich.

Fine has donated to Moms for Liberty and made joint appearances with the group. Still, at a Senate committee hearing in late February, Descovich said she would not recuse if a case involving Fine should come before the ethics commission.

What makes Descovich’s position most curious is that the person who filed the complaint against Rep. Fine is Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins. Jenkins, of Satellite Beach, defeated Descovich at the polls and took her school board seat in 2020.

In her four-page complaint, Jenkins detailed how Fine had made disparaging remarks against her, including a “whore” on social media. She wrote Fine was unhappy that the West Melbourne Police Department had invited her to participate in an annual “bail” fundraiser for Special Olympics Florida, and not him. She said she used Florida’s public records law to obtain Fine’s text communications showing that he threatened other local officials that state funding for both the Special Olympics and a local water project was at risk as a result.

Jenkins’s complaint alleges Fine violated Florida’s Code of Ethics for Public Officers.

Jenkins is frustrated by what’s happened. “Mr. Fine is being considered for having abused his office and position of power, and here it is happening in the very same place he is supposed to be held accountable,” she said.


Fine, of Palm Bay, is a headline magnet. Two years ago, he appeared to threaten President Joe Biden’s life when he wrote on Twitter, “I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our president — try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place.” In December, he was seen on video hiding under his desk at his Palm Bay office in an apparent attempt to dodge a subpoena.

Fine has riled LGBTQ people with alarming comments, like his fiery remarks in April 2023 suggesting their eradication. He has repeatedly “used threats to pull or withhold state funding in the past to strike back at political rivals and retaliate over perceived slights,” including threatening funding for the West Melbourne Special Olympics, according to Florida Today.

With DeSantis’s backing, Fine was briefly in the running for president of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. But after a search committee didn’t even pick him as a finalist last July, Fine publicly switched from supporting DeSantis in the Republican presidential race to ex-President Donald Trump. Trump endorsed Fine’s current bid for a State Senate seat in February, calling him a “MAGA Warrior.”

Ethics commission advocate Melody Hadley

The Commission on Ethics voted 7-1 on April 21, 2023 to reject the recommendation of Assistant Attorney General Melody Hadley, its advocate/prosecutor, that the case against Fine be dismissed. Instead, the commission found probable cause to believe that Fine “abused his position to obtain a disproportionate benefit and that he misused his position by threatening to take away state funding over a personal feud with a Brevard County School Board member, and that he [interfered] in a council member’s response to a public records request for communications related to the dispute,” according to a press release.

At the hearing, then-commissioner Jim Waldman, a former state representative from Coral Springs, called what Fine had done “reprehensible.”

Last month, in his motion asking Judge Peterson to relinquish control of the case and send it back to the ethics commission for reconsideration, Coates used a truncated quote that Waldman made during the hearing as potential evidence of Fine’s mistreatment: “Related to other cases related to this we may have taken a different view.” Coates omitted what Waldman said next: “There is nothing here that is the proper exercise of your duties as a state legislator.”

A prosecutor vanishes

Today, ethics commission advocate/prosecutor Hadley – who also recommended dismissing ethics cases against Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony (unsuccessful) and longtime NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer (successful) – is back in charge of prosecuting Fine.

Her co-counsel at the administrative law court, Elizabeth Miller, is unexpectedly and, a bit mysteriously, gone.

According to Jennifer Jenkins, the Brevard School Board member who filed the complaint that led the ethics commission to find probable cause against Fine, Miller phoned her on April 4 to introduce herself before the May 14 hearing/trial.

“She asked me to tell her in my own words about my complaint to better assist her in proving Mr. Fine had a personal benefit from his actions. She then informed me the hearing was via Zoom and I should hear from her in a week’s time again and that she would be contacting witnesses in this case…She was kind, respectful, and positive. I called her a few days later because I wanted to elaborate on something and left a message to return my call. She never called back.

“A week later everything changed,” Jenkins said.

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Latest comments

  • Another great story Dan, exposing the ongoing compromise of Florida’s non-existent guardrails against corruption among public officials.

  • Fine is going to get his piece of cake with the help of others, come hell or high water. This state has become so corrupt during the past 2 governors, it makes you lose all hope of it coming back.

  • There’s nothing sleazier than the Florida Ethics Commission, except perhaps Randy Fine.

  • Fine also heads up an autism charity that uses drag and burlesque shows in its yearly fundraiser, of which the proceeds are never used to help the kids, status of the charity wasn’t even legal at the time. Several kids present, and wife dancing on stage in skimpy outfits, right after he passed a law outlawing drag shows.

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