Rep. Janet Cruz
Photo from Florida House of Representatives

State Representative Janet Cruz, the Florida House Democratic Leader, is facing a Florida ethics complaint after allegedly failing to list a home she rents on a state financial disclosure form. State law requires candidates for state office to disclose liabilities that exceed $1000. The Florida Ethics Commission considers lease agreements a liability.

The ethics complaint, obtained by FLA News, was filed last week by Hillsborough County resident Lacy Maguire.

Rep. Cruz is term limited in the House of Representatives and now a candidate for the Florida Senate district 18 seat.

Cruz claims to live in a 1000 square foot home she rents inside her northern Hillsborough County House district. Her husband, Stephen Rifkin, owns a nearly 4800 sq. ft. home that sits outside House district 62. State law requires a member of the legislature to reside in the district they represent.

Where Rep. Cruz lives has been the subject of much debate. Cruz’s campaign provided documents to the website FloridaPolitics.com last month showing Ms. Cruz’ driver’s license, a utility bill and credit cards are tied to the Fremont Avenue rental property. Cruz also provided documents showing she pays $1,150 monthly in rent.

The ethics complaint alleges that assuming Cruz has a lease, standard with rental properties, she is violating Florida law by failing to disclose the rental as a liability. Cruz does list other liabilities on her state disclosure form, including an automobile lease with BMW.

Cruz is locked in a battle with incumbent Republican Senator Dana Young for the western Hillsborough County senate seat. The race is one of the more contentious legislative races this election cycle. One of the allegations raised in the race also involves Rep. Cruz and her residency. Young accused Cruz of claiming two homestead exemptions – one for the house in her husband’s name, the other on a home she owns. Cruz was required to pay $32,000 for claiming two homestead exemptions since the law only allows for one.

The newly filed ethics complaint will be reviewed by the Florida Ethics Commission which will determine if there is probable cause to move forward. With less than four weeks before Election Day, it’s unlikely the Florida Ethics Commission will resolve the complaint before then.

David Bishop is a native Floridian, husband and father. During his 30 year career, David has been a journalist, political operative and communications consultant.