Brad Harvey ordered to pay $249,000
The Ethics Commission orders the former property appraiser to pay restitution and fine; criminal charges still pending
By WILLIAM SNOWDEN Editor
The Florida Commission on Ethics has issued an order for former Wakulla County Property Appraiser Brad Harvey who misused his position to roverpay himself in excess of his statutory salary, misused the office credit card to make personal purchases, and underreported income on his 2017 and 2018 financial disclosures.
The ethics commission, at their meeting on Jan. 27, ordered Harvey to pay a civil penalty of $40,000, restitution to Wakulla County in the amount of $209,236.30, public censure and reprimand, and removal from public office was recommended.
(The commission made a finding in October 2021 finding probable cause for the ethics violations.)
Harvey is still facing felony criminal charges for embezzlement, and he has requested a trial. A case management hearing is set for May 4.
Harvey was removed from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis back in 2020 after the criminal charges were filed against Harvey that he overpaid himself more than $176,000 and spent $27,000 on personal expenses on the office credit card.
Harvey is represented in the case by Tallahassee attorney Shelly Thomas. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Andrew Deneen.
The case was initially under Wakulla Chief Prosecutor Brian Miller, but he recused himself citing that both he and Harvey were members of the Rotary Club of Wakulla. The investigation into finances of the proprerty appraiser’s office were initiated after the Rotary Club became concerned about missing money from a gun raffle fundraiser – and Harvey was the club treasurer. (Miller has since been elected Wakulla County judge.)
A whistleblower in the property appraiser’s office reported to law enforcement suspicions that Harvey was overpaying himself and misusing the office credit card.
The newspaper was aware of the suspicions of financial improprieties and, along with another interested party, began making public requests and writing news stories about it. Later public record requests indicated that Harvey continued overpaying himself even after he knew he was under investigation by FDLE.
Asked by the newspaper to provide justification for the overpayments, Harvey pointed to a supplement he had received when he was chief deputy under the prior property appraiser for work done on Fire and Solid Waste tax rolls. He seemed to think he was still entitled to the supplement – though the total amount of overpayment far exceeded the supplement.
Harvey’s statutory salary was $103,000 in 2016 when he was elected. It increased to $107,500 the next year and again to $108,336 in 2018.
Harvey had done payroll and other office financials as chief deputy under former appraiser Donnie Sparkman, but Harvey continued those duties when he took over the office, with no oversight.
The county auditing firm did not uncover the problems until after Harvey was removed from office.
Records indicate that among the personal expenses Harvey charged to the office were expensive off-road tires and other improvements on his personal truck; and more than $3,000 for a family cruise to celebrate his daughter’s high school graduation.
When Ed Brimner took office as property appraiser two years ago, he handed off much of the financial work of his office to Clerk of Courts and County Comptroller Greg James, noting at the time that it would give more transparency and public confidence to his office.