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A question of ethics: commissioner’s possible involvement in corruption

Local News

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — During Tuesday’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe says a Bay County Commissioner went on a trip funded by the illegal scheme with one of the men charged in the federal crime.

Commissioner Keith Baker has since released a statement to News 13 confirming he was the person involved.

The statement reads: “Erosion Control Specialists is not a past or present vendor of Bay County. In December of 2018, as a newly elected county commissioner, I was unaware of the requirements regarding the reporting of gifts by elected officials. I did accept a trip to Tennessee and will take immediate steps to rectify my failure to report that gift with the state Ethics Commission.”

After this, News 13 looked at how elected officials disclose gifts to their respective city or county.

When Baker took office in 2018, he was not required to take the class and did not take it.

However, the State Ethics Commission has now changed the rules and will require candidates to have the training.

“It puts this requirement on candidates that once you’re elected and you become not a candidate but an elected official. You’ll have to have four hours of ethics training, is required before December 31st of this year so that when you do your disclosure form in the future that you can check that box that you had that adequate training,” said Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen.

Andersen says his office is not in charge of the course or the consequences.

“I think this is just an issue of the whole state of Florida is to have a thorough understanding of what a gift is considered, what is a gift is not considered, their limits, when to report, when not to report and in even more in-depth, it goes into lobbyist and other areas,” Andersen said.

Andersen does know what the training entails though.

“The training scenarios, you still fall under requirements no matter what as an elected official for gifts and other items, it would help put clarity on everything that we as a qualifying officer in this office, we don’t have that requirement. It comes from the ethics commission that was put on by the legislation,” Andersen said.

Since being in office, Baker did not disclose the Tennessee trip but he did disclose his $3,750 cost for a VIP ticket to President Donald Trump’s Rally at Aaron Bessent Park in May of 2019.

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