The Florida Commission on Ethics has found that there is probable cause that Escambia County District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill may have violated the state’s ethics laws.
This means that the ethics commission will now investigate seven of 13 allegations that the commissioner misused his position as a public official. The allegations include those that the commissioner was sharing confidential information, failing to reports gifts raised through a GoFundMe account, and that the commissioner was accepting and not disclosing donations from a county vendors and/or lobbyists.
Underhill could potentially be fined up to $10,000 per violation, or removed from office.
The Commission considered a complaint filed against Escambia County Commissioner DOUGLAS UNDERHILL. The Commission found probable cause to believe that Mr. Underhill misused his position by publicly sharing or publishing confidential transcripts, including minutes from Escambia County Commission meetings. Probable cause also was found to believe the information he disclosed was only available to him as a public officer and gained by reason of his official position. Probable cause was found on three allegations that related to Mr. Underhill soliciting donations through a GoFundMe page including soliciting donations from a vendor, lobbyist or principal of a lobbyist of the County, accepting prohibited donations to his personal legal defense fund from a vendor, lobbyist or the principal lobbyist of the County, and failing to disclose reportable gifts in excess of $100 on a From 9, Quarterly Gift Disclosure.
Regarding two additional allegations relating to the reporting of gifts, probable cause was found to believe Mr. Underhill failed to report on a Form 9, Quarterly Gift Disclosure, free personal legal services, provided by a law firm, as well as travel and shipping expenses provided to him by a non-profit organization. Allegations Mr. Underhill published his GoFundMe legal defense fund to social media, solicited free legal services from a lobbyist/vendor, accepted free legal services from a lobbyist or vendor, had a conflicting employment or contracted relationship with the Pensacola Sports Association, Inc., and an allegation that Mr. Underhill solicited, and then accepted, reimbursement for travel and expenses from an organization that accepting funding from the County were dismissed with a finding of no probable cause.
Underhill responded to the report with the following statement:
“I am very much looking forward to the investigation period of this. We’re going to get to see some facts and see some of those things vetted in court. And I think as with all of the other ones in the past, once you see the investigation go to actually get done — and the facts be presented, I think that it’ll come out very favorable.”