Florida Bulldog

More ethics turmoil as Florida AG’s chief ethics prosecutor quits amid probe she misused job to query state database

ethics prosecutor
Elizabeth “Buff” Miller, chief prosecutor for the Florida ethics commission, on April 24, 2019 at a hearing for former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Photo: Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat

By Dan Christensen,

The head of the Florida Attorney General’s Ethics Bureau, which prosecutes cases before the ethics commission, quit abruptly last month after being confronted with evidence she misused her position to improperly query Florida’s Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle database.

Elizabeth “Buff” Miller, now a former chief assistant attorney general, was looking to obtain information about a defendant in a 2011 civil lawsuit in which Miller was the plaintiff’s attorney, according to a report of an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Inspector General.

The 11-page report, released in response to Florida Bulldog’s public records request, cites a half-dozen violations of various “laws, rules, regulations or policies” by Miller for what it says was a “non-business-related query.”  It also says, “Any unauthorized query of DAVID [Driver and Vehicle Information Database] could constitute a violation of section 119.0712(2) of the Florida Statutes and a violation of the Driver Privacy Protection Act [DPPA] which prohibit release of personal information except as otherwise specifically permitted within the Act.”

The defendant, a woman, was not identified in the report, and what the 2011 case was about were not made public. The report says Miller admitted what she did but did not discuss her motive.

The report does not say whether any official action against Miller is contemplated. Her annual salary was $120,000 and her most recent job evaluation rated her performance as “commendable.”

State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay

Miller is perhaps most well-known for successfully prosecuting Andrew Gillum, the former Democratic Tallahassee mayor who lost to Ron DeSantis in the 2018 race for governor, for accepting a gift from a lobbyist. She declined to comment. But her husband, George Miller, said Buff Miller made the query as part of her research for work.


The Ethics Bureau can place a lien on the car of a respondent who has not paid their fine in a civil case. That was one of Buff Miller’s jobs, he said, and she wanted to know what happens if someone with an outstanding fine declares bankruptcy.

“So she remembered she had a case [when she was in private practice] where a woman she prosecuted, who was on the other side, got a judgment against her and then the woman later filed for bankruptcy,” he said. “The attorney general’s office didn’t particularly think that was related to a case and thought that was a wrong usage of the public record request. That’s the gist of it.”

He added that Buff Miller, 69, quit because she’d been thinking about resigning for a while and that this was the last straw. “She said, ‘Look, screw it. I’m done with you.’”

Miller’s departure from the attorney general’s office came at a critical point in the ethics case against State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. The ethics commission voted 7-1 on April 21, 2023 to find probable cause that Fine had “abused his position to obtain a disproportionate benefit and that he misused his position 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 communication related to the dispute.”

The case was then sent to Florida’s Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) to be tried publicly before a hearing judge. Miller was to be the prosecutor and had prepared for trial set for this May 14-16 by contacting witnesses, according to her husband.

One of those witnesses is Jennifer Jenkins, the Brevard School Board member who filed the complaint against Fine. “She was kind, respectful and positive,” said Jenkins.


But unbeknownst to Jenkins, Miller resigned on April 12. And on April 16, Fine’s politically connected Tallahassee lawyer, Richard Coates, asked DOAH Judge James H. Peterson III to relinquish control of Fine’s case and send it back to the ethics commission for reconsideration. Peterson, assured by Coates that Miller had “authorized” him to say she did not oppose his unusual request, granted it the next day.

Richard Coates
Richard Coates

Email traffic between Coates and Miller about Coates’s proposal to get Fine’s case sent back to the ethics commission for reconsideration shows that Miller agreed to it. The emails were released as part of the attorney general’s public records response.

The inspector general’s report says it got involved on April 11 after getting a call from Miller’s boss, Associate Deputy Attorney General Sonia Garcia-Solis. Garcia-Solis got the information from Melody Hadley, a senior assistant attorney general who works in the ethics bureau, who in turn heard about it from a legal assistant, Victoria Johnson.

Miller, Hadley and Johnson were the only employees in the ethics bureau at the time.

Under oath, Johnson told how during the bureau’s collection efforts they were filling out forms to request information from the DAVID database. Miller asked her to sign as the requestor, and she signed as the supervisor. But Johnson said she didn’t recognize the name on the form as one of the respondents on the list of cases they were using. “It was weird that I didn’t recognize the name,” she said.

The next day, April 5, Johnson got a call from a staffer in the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to let her know that the form was filled out incorrectly. She then called Miller and said, “Where did you save it and I’ll fix it and send it back.” She said Miller replied that she hadn’t saved it under any case and hurriedly got off the phone. “And it was about that time I started to think, okay, wait. Who was that and if it wasn’t saved to a case, which is odd, all of our documents are related to a case, that struck me as odd.”


The following day Johnson found the form and saw that there was a case number, but it was from a 2011 case. She said, “I think it was a final judgment against defendant document. So, I was able to see who that person was, what case it was regarding, and that’s when I realized where Ms. Miller was the plaintiff’s attorney and the woman that we’d done the record request on was the defendant in that case. And…I believe it was a judgment for, I don’t remember if it was damages and attorney’s fees. I know it was partly attorney’s fees.”

ethics prosecutor
Associate Deputy Attorney General Sonia Garcia-Solis

Johnson stated that she was “perturbed” because she thought she had signed for something she didn’t believe was work-related. She later told Hadley about it, who reported it to Garcia-Solis on April 10.

Garcia-Solis said under oath that she talked to Miller on the afternoon of April 11. She asked Miller if this was an attorney general’s case. Miller “immediately said no, it’s not” and that it was about a person that she had a case with several years ago. “Miller told Garcia-Solis that she ‘knew it would probably be wrong. I don’t know why I did it. I made a mistake.” She said she’d resign and “take accountability for this.”

“She was obviously very upset, very emotional during this,” Garcia-Solis said. “And I told her…I have to report it to the IG’s office, resignation or not.” She told Miller “to wait on her resignation until she had more information about what policy violation this infraction would fall under” and that while dismissal was one option, “she thought there might be other options.”  Garcia-Solis told the IG investigators that she’d never known Miller to do anything like this before.

Miller thought about it overnight. She quit at 12:18 p.m. the next day – “before the OIG could interview her.”

George Miller said his wife was willing to speak with the OIG but was not asked to do so.

Miller never did receive the database information she requested from the Highway and Motor Vehicles Department. She did, however, query the Accurint database and received what the report says was “confidential information.” The report says Miller “committed a ‘breach of security’ which means unauthorized access of data in electronic form containing personal information.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support Florida Bulldog

If you believe in the value of watchdog journalism please make your tax-deductible contribution today.

We are a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax deductible.

Join Our Email List


First Name

Last Name

Florida Bulldog delivers fact-based watchdog reporting as a public service that’s essential to a free and democratic society. We are nonprofit, independent, nonpartisan, experienced. No fake news here.


3 responses to “More ethics turmoil as Florida AG’s chief ethics prosecutor quits amid probe she misused job to query state database”

  1. Connie Prince Avatar
    Connie Prince

    Karma is a bitch!!!
    Commission on ethics a joke, its members, along with prior members corrupt and let throw Doah in the mix as well!

  2. Chinos Screams Avatar
    Chinos Screams

    I was once ignorant enough to think that this commission would bring accountability to the disgusting felon killer that some mistakenly call a sheriff. Boy was I wrong. In fact, I wasn’t even close.

  3. This poor lady runs someone in the Florida DHSMV database, known as DAVID, and chooses to resign. Meanwhile, we have a Sheriff appointed by Ron DeSantis who committed a murder in Philadelphia and then lied about it. The question he lied about clearly asks if he had ever been charged with any crime regardless of court action. Tony self-reported LSD usage on his FSU Police Department application and wasn’t hired because LSD usage is a permanent disqualifier for anyone applying for a certified law enforcement officer position. What does Tony do? He omits this on subsequent applications and eventually gets hired by the Coral Springs PD. Tony lies about his driver’s license ever being suspended and pretty much anything else he can get away with. Do you want the sheriff of the county to be a compulsive liar? How do you feel about dirty cops? Cops that plant evidence? Think about all of the lies Tony has told and the fact that he lied to the governor himself. Tony is even on the Brady list and cannot provide testimony in Broward County because he is a proven liar. He cannot be trusted and marks the decline of Broward County into more of a Chicago atmosphere where anything goes. You would think Tony is a Soros selection, but no, it’s our pillar of excellence, Ron DeSantis, who appointed him. Perhaps he doesn’t care about Broward as it has a high concentration of Democrats. One day, this is going to hit the news when something big happens, and the blood will be on DeSantis’s hands. DeSantis takes everyone else out of office but leaves Tony alone. Perhaps DeSantis is the one who is woke! DeSantis is afraid! Do you think anyone else who is a cop would keep their Law Enforcement Certification after all of this? Nope, not anyone else but Tony. DeSantis looks after him and is afraid to remove him!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *