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District 119 Rep. Fresen Facing Ethics Complaint

TALLAHASSEE - (CBS4) Florida Representative Erik Fresen, a Republican who represents District 111 in west Miami-Dade, is the target of an ethics complaint filed by a Leon County woman who claims he voted on charter school legislation without disclosing his sister's connection to a for-profit charter school company.

Fresen's sister Magdalena is listed in state records as Vice President and treasurer of Academica, a Miami-Dade company that operates charter schools. His brother-in-law, Fernando Zulueta, is listed as president.

Trish Thompson, who filed the complaint, said "Fresen failed to declare a conflict of interest prior to casting a vote" in a House Education Committee meeting on April 20. Fresen voted on a bill (HB 7195) that expands charter schools, allowing highly-rated schools to expand and add grades.

"He also participated in the promotion of amendments that would enhance his relative's ability to profit from 'for-profit' management company charter schools," she said.

Thompson says Fresen's actions are unethical because they violating a state law that prohibits elected officials from voting any measure which could help or hinder any relatives or business associates.

Making that stick could be tricky. The language in the state law limits a violation to legislators who take action to benefit just themselves or their family, but nobody else.

Fresen told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald that the law would benefit all charter school operators.

Fresen dismissed the ethics complaint as unfounded. He is entering his third year in the seat once held by now US Senator Marco Rubio.

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