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Florida Ethics Commission Finds Probable Cause That Former SLC Sheriff Mascara "Misused His Position"


St. Lucie County - Thursday June 13, 2024: At a closed door session held in Tallahassee last Friday, June 7th, the Florida Commission on Ethics reached the conclusion that there is "probable cause that former St. Lucie County Sheriff (SLCSO) Ken Mascara misused his position and official resources to assist a campaign in order to prevent a particular candidate from running against him in the general election."

That conclusion may trigger an investigation into the allegation which could result in penalties. But a finding of probable cause is not a determination that a violation occurred. That can only be made after a full evidentiary hearing on the accusations.

If the Ethics Commission believes a violation of the law may have occurred, it may decide to hold a public hearing. If it concludes a violation has been committed, it may recommend civil penalties including removal from office or employment and fines up to $10,000 per violation.

Regarding another allegation however, the Commission found "no probable cause" to the claim that the former Sheriff was able to obtain confidential information because of his public position, and used that information for his personal benefit, or to benefit someone else.

The Ethics Commission acted on a referral they received from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Last year FDLE investigated misconduct allegations against Mascara, but they found insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against him.

In 2020, Mascara is alleged to have actively promoted Kevin Carter's campaign for the GOP Sheriff's nomination in order to prevent another candidate, Rich Williams, from winning the Republican primary. Members of the SLC Sheriff staff have been accused of helping in the scheme, including current SLC Sheriff Keith Pearson.

The FDLE investigation last year also concluded that the evidence against Pearson's alleged involvement in the scheme was insufficient to pursue criminal charges against him either.

Mascara retired suddenly last December 1st last year citing un-disclosed health issues. Within hours of his resignation Governor DeSantis by-passed senior SLCSO commanders and appointed Lt. Keith Pearson to replace Mascara in order to finish out the remaining year of Mascara's term in office.

Three days later on Monday December 4th, Pearson had already prepared and filed the paperwork for election as SLC Sheriff. He is runing as a Republican.

Then on Wednesday, December 6th, the St. Lucie County Republican Party called a news conferenceand denounced the Governor's appointment of Pearson as Sheriff. SLC County GOP Chairman Kenny Nail called it a matter of "grave concern" and questioned the motivation behind the appointment of what he called "a corrupt Sheriff by our estimated Governor.”

The Florida Commission on Ethics is an independent nine-member commission formed in 1974 to review complaints filed under the statutory Code of Ethics and to answer questions from public officials about potential conflicts of interest through its issuance of advisory opinions.