"There is legitimate room for discussion about what belongs in the Constitution and what doesn’t, and which regulations are right for nursing homes and which aren’t. But there is no place in the constitutional review process for special interest proposals designed to boost the bottom line of one law firm. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Brecht Heuchan, an appointed member of the Constitution Revision Commission, is trying to foist on the people of Florida. It’s a clear conflict of interest, and that is why today I filed a formal ethics complaint against him.
As Executive Director of the American Senior Alliance, my “special” interest in this matter is the thousands of Florida seniors living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Our not-for-profit organization has just one mission, advocating on behalf of America’s greatest generation. It is regrettably obvious that Mr. Heuchan and his client are working toward a very different interest.
The basis for my conflict of interest complaint is straightforward: Mr. Heuchan is a paid, registered lobbyist for Wilkes & McHugh, a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases against nursing homes. In his capacity as a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, Mr. Heuchan has filed a proposal that would make it far easier for law firms to sue nursing homes, revoking provisions of a law enacted in 2014 over Mr. Heuchan’s objections on behalf of his client Wilkes & McHugh. Several provisions of Mr. Heuchan’s proposal mirrors policy positions advocated by Wilkes McHugh.
In other words, Mr. Heuchan is using his official governmental position to advance the material interests of his client, in violation of sections 112.312 and 112.313 of Florida Statutes. This is as clear-cut a conflict of interest as one is likely to find.
Worse still, Mr. Heuchan advanced the policy interests of his paid principal even though he had not registered to lobby before the Constitution Revision Commission. This violates Section 112.3215 of Florida Statutes.
Appointment to the Constitution Revision Commission is a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity for three dozen Floridians to help shape the broad policy direction of Florida’s government and its citizens for the next two decades. They owe all of us a duty to conduct themselves in a way that reflects the true spirit of public service, for the benefit of all. Mr. Heuchan has instead chosen to use his special position to serve the interests of his employer, to the detriment of countless Florida seniors. This must not be allowed to stand, and I look to the Commission on Ethics to put a halt to this improper action."