Complainant alleges money for lake house came from Ralph Hughes
By Chris Ingram
Tampa attorney and local Republican Paul Phillips has filed a wide-ranging ethics complaint against eighteen-year incumbent Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman who is currently seeking a seat in the Florida Senate. Norman is term limited from seeking the county commission job again. He faces State Representative Kevin Ambler in the G.O.P. Primary on Tuesday.
Phillips’ complaint which was sent to the State Ethics Commission yesterday alleges Norman has failed to accurately reveal financial information on state-mandated candidate financial disclosure forms. It claims Norman has withheld information about assets he owns including two boats moored at an Arkansas lake house that were part of the purchase of said house by Norman’s wife. Norman claims the lake house purchase was legit and was made by his wife independently from him and that he was only put on the boat registrations for “liability” reasons. However, the Normans have refused to disclose where the money came from other than to say from “investors.” Arkansas law conveniently does not require disclosure of such “investors.”
According to Phillips’ complaint, Mrs. Norman has no obvious known source of income which would allow for the purchase of a $435,000 lake front home. Phillips’ complaint claims deceased Hillsborough County political puppeteer Ralph Hughes fronted the money and that it constitutes either an unreported loan or unreported income. The Normans have refused to release their income tax returns to clear the answer to that question.
Phillips’ lengthy ethics complaint, (Click here to view: Norman Ethics Complaint (2)) notes that the home was sold to the Normans by Ed Roleson, Jr. a now deceased former Miller Beer Co. distributor. The real estate transaction was conducted around the same time the Tampa Sports Authority (which Norman served on) approved a patio deck in the south end-zone of Raymond James Stadium for Miller Beer.
Phillips alleges Norman’s solely listing his wife on the title to the house was “done deliberately to conceal an obvious conflict of interest for Mr. Norman and illegal gift to him and/or his spouse.”
When asked why he filed the complaint, Phillips told Irreverent View, “I’m sick of it all –the state [Republican] party leaders endorsing people for reasons other than qualifications. Voters getting zero representation. The bottom lines is, we all know there were a bunch of guys on the Hillsborough Commission put up by Ralph Hughes. And I see it happening again with [Josh] Burgin,” Phillips said referring to the county commission candidate who has been accused of being a pawn of businessman Sam Rashid.
He added, “I’m appalled at all the backroom deals. I’m just sick of it.”
Who knows how this whole thing will shake out, but Phillips is to be commended for filing his complaint and bringing further scrutiny to this subject. Norman is entitled to tell his story but has so far chosen not to say much.
One thing is clear, in politics, the story can usually be told by following the money.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of www.IrreverentView.com. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, Front Page Florida, and National Review online. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.
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