By Ryan Dailey
On September 12, 2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis last Wednesday appointed a co-founder of the group Moms for Liberty and a South Florida-based attorney to seats on the Florida Commission on Ethics, replacing the board’s Black former chair and a member whose term expired.
Tina Descovich, a former Brevard Public Schools board member who helped found the prominent conservative group Moms for Liberty, said in a statement that she was “honored” to be named to “this important statewide commission.”
“The Florida ethics commission is charged with serving as the guardian of the standards of conduct for public officers and employees as well as safeguarding public trust. It will be a privilege to serve the state I love as a member of this commission,” Descovich said.
DeSantis spoke at Moms For Liberty “summit” events in Tampa, Fla., and Philadelphia in 2022 and 2023, respectively, and was a guest on the group’s “Joyful Warriors” podcast in July, where he discussed his campaign for president.
Moms for Liberty has been a major player in controversies about attempts to remove or review books at schools. Moms for Liberty contends it is trying to prevent children from having access to adult-oriented books and material, but critics have accused the group of book banning.
Florida first lady Casey DeSantis spoke to the group last year, extolling “mamas on a mission.” She would eventually go on to form the Mamas for DeSantis campaign auxiliary group that was helpful in the governor’s massive reelection victory last year. A national version of that group now exists for the 2024 campaign.
Democrats immediately objected to Descovich’s appointment to the ethics commission.
Jennifer Jenkins, a Brevard Public Schools board member who appeared with Democratic Party officials in July 2022 during the same weekend as the Moms for Liberty summit in Tampa, criticized the governor’s pick.
“Qualifications include: losing an incumbent school board seat & creating a nationally recognized hate group,” Jenkins said in a tweet, referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center labeling Moms for Liberty as an “antigovernment organization.”’
Moms for Liberty is “exploring every legal option” to “hold the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) accountable,” Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview.
The other DeSantis appointee to the ethics commission is Luis Fuste, a founding partner at Fuste Law, PA. The firm’s website said he has a focus on “representation of labor organizations, employees, and small-to-medium-sized businesses,” and has served on the Miami-Dade Police Department’s legal unit and as assistant general counsel for the South Florida Police Benevolent Association.
Fuste in January also was appointed by DeSantis to the state’s Board of Chiropractic Medicine.
The ethics commission appointments ultimately will need approval from the Florida Senate.
Former commission chair Glen Gilzean resigned from the role Aug. 22, 2023. Gilzean holds a $400,000-per-year job as administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, a revamped special district that includes Walt Disney World properties. He left his unpaid position on the ethics panel after a lawyer for the commission wrote that it would be “inconsistent” with state law for Gilzean to hold both roles simultaneously.
The other open commission seat had been held by Jim Waldman, a former Democratic state lawmaker from Coconut Creek. Waldman’s term on the commission expired in June, but he continued serving until a replacement was named.
A spokesperson for the ethics commission told News Service of Florida that Descovich and Fuste became members of the commission immediately.
This piece was republished from The Miami Times.