FDLE declares conflict in probe of CFO Patronis and hands case over to a state prosecutor

Florida Chief Financial Officer (current and elect) Jimmy Patronis sits at the front of the Senate chamber during the 2018 Senate organizational session Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Florida's Capitol building in Tallahassee. CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has declared a conflict of interest in an investigation involving Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and has handed off the probe to the State Attorney’s Office in Tallahassee.

The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau first reported the development in a story published Friday.

The FDLE has been investigating whether Patronis, a Republican elected to his Cabinet office in 2018, violated state law by releasing a partially redacted sexual harassment complaint related to Ronald Rubin, the former state banking commissioner who was fired by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet last year.

Under state law, the sexual-harassment complaint should have remained confidential until an investigation was concluded.

Following the Herald/Tampa Bay Times report, Patronis’ office released this written statement:

“Last week FDLE advised our office that Ron Rubin’s allegations of wrongdoing were being sent from FDLE to the State Attorney’s Office with no recommendation because FDLE was conflicted out from looking into a Cabinet office,” the statement said.

“We then reached out to the State Attorney’s Office to offer any assistance they may need. Our view remains that these complaints are the last desperate grasps of a man who was fired by Gov. DeSantis and Attorney General Moody along with CFO Patronis after multiple complaints of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior,” the statement said.

State Attorney Jack Campbell, the top prosecutor for the judicial circuit that includes Leon County, told the Herald/Tampa Bay Times that the decision to declare a conflict and hand over an uncompleted investigation was unusual. He said the FDLE told him there was a conflict since Patronis, along with DeSantis and the other state Cabinet members, oversees the state’s top law enforcement agency.

“For them to say, ‘We’re taking a step back because of a potential conflict,’ I can’t think of another case where that has happened,” Campbell told the Herald/Tampa Bay Times. He has been in office for three years.