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Proposal seeks to expand officeholders Legislature can impeach

Florida’s elected state attorneys and public defenders could be subject to impeachment by the Legislature, under a measure overwhelmingly approved by a House committee Thursday.

The proposal, sponsored by freshman Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo of Tampa, would give voters the opportunity to expand the rarely used impeachment powers of the Legislature by amending the state Constitution. Legislators already have the power to impeach the governor, the lieutenant governor, members of the Florida Cabinet and judges.

RELATED: More Florida Legislature coverage

The proposal, approved Thursday by the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, would add the 20 elected state attorneys and 20 public defenders, also elected, to the list of officials.

The proposal (HJR 999) comes after a Commission on Ethics investigation into Matt Shirk, a former Jacksonville-area public defender who lost his re-election bid last year. The commission found probable cause to believe that Shirk improperly hired three women for his office and also served or drank alcohol in a city building.

The commission, in part, found probable cause to believe that Shirk “misused his position to hire or direct the hiring of three women, contrary to procedures, policies, qualifications, or normal hiring practices, to engage in workplace or work-related interactions with them that were of personal interest to him and unrelated or marginally related to the function of his office, and to terminate them from their employment for the benefit of himself, his wife, and their marriage,” according a news release about decisions made by the commission in June.

But Toledo said her proposal was not aimed at anyone specifically. “Everyone can share stories about someone in their county doing things that they didn’t think were appropriate. So, definitely this will fix those, but this is not in response to any particular item,” she said.

“I think there should be more oversight and accountability, and I think this bill will fix that,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has filed a similar proposal (SB 904).

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