Broward County mayor accused of breaking ethics laws

Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief

A complaint that Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief broke state ethics laws by filing error-filled financial disclosures is headed to the Florida Commission on Ethics in Tallahassee.

A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for April 25, where Sharief and an ethics commission investigator will each have five minutes to make presentations. The ethics commission, which has the ability to levy fines, will then determine whether it believes Sharief violated state law.

The meetings are held in private, with the outcome made public afterwards.

Sharief couldn't be reached for comment Monday, but has said in the past that any mistakes she made on her financial disclosures have since been fixed.


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A private investigator from Pompano Beach, Fred Messer, filed the complaint, providing documentation to the state ethics commission and the Broward State Attorney's Office to support his allegations that Sharief did not reveal all of her real estate holdings, didn't report having a checking or savings account, and did not properly report her income, in filling out the required disclosures. He also pointed out that in one year, her state financial worth plummeted from $8 million to $4 million. And she reported the same mortgage liability on her home for three years in a row.

The disclosures are required under state law, and are available to the public under the state's public records laws.

"It is obvious Ms. Sharief has not been forthcoming in the disclosure of her assets and income,'' he wrote to the state, regarding her 2010, 2011 and 2012 filings.

The veracity of Sharief's financial paperwork has been called into question before. Sharief last year was investigated and fined twice by the state Agency for Health Care Administration for improper Medicaid billings at her home health care company.

In the first case, in which Sharief's billings from 2007 to 2011 were examined, she agreed to repay the state $540,328, including a $48,561 fine.

In the second case, dealing with paperwork from 2008 to 2012, the state ultimately alleged her overbillings totaled $91,168, and with a fine of $18,233 and other costs, settled with Sharief for $109,924 in December. The settlement did "not constitute an admission of wrongdoing or error,'' it reads.

Sharief was not accused of intentionally filing false claims in either case, and said last fall that she did not overbill Medicaid. She said she opted to settle rather than "continue to mount legal fees.''

A former city commissioner in Miramar, Sharief is serving a one-year term as mayor of Broward County, a mostly ceremonial position. The county is run by a professional administrator, Bertha Henry.

bwallman@tribune.com or 954-356-4541