You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Ron DeSantis violated state spending law when he spent Florida dollars to fly Venezuelan migrants to Martha's Vineyard, a new lawsuit says

Business Insider logo Business Insider 9/23/2022 kleonard@insider.com (Kimberly Leonard)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves during a press conference, Thursday, September 22, 2022, in Miami. Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo © Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves during a press conference, Thursday, September 22, 2022, in Miami. Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo
  • A state senator has sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after he directed flights to Martha's Vineyard.
  • The lawsuit accuses DeSantis of improperly using state funds by picking up migrants in Texas. 

A Florida Democratic state senator has sued to block Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis from orchestrating any more flights carrying migrants to other states. 

Jason Pizzo, a Florida Democratic senator representing Miami, filed a lawsuit on Thursday night, alleging that the governor violated the law when he tapped into the $12 million set aside for migrant transport in this year's state budget.

Last week, DeSantis took credit for chartering two planes to transport 48 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha's Vineyard, as a political stunt in protest of President Joe Biden's immigration policies. 

Pizzo says in his lawsuit that DeSantis' actions were in violation of state law because the budget stipulates that the funds may be used for "the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law." The flights originated in Texas and made a brief stop in the Florida Panhandle before heading to Massachusetts. 

The governor has said that numerous migrants settle in Florida after crossing the border. Last year, the federal government sent 80 flights carrying migrants into Florida, according to Politico

State lawmakers, including Pizzo, overwhelmingly voted in favor of Florida's budget. Some of the money for the program came from interest earned on money sent to Florida from Biden's American Rescue Plan. 

"Senator Pizzo never misses an opportunity for his 15 minutes of fame and is challenging an action on an appropriation he voted for," DeSantis communications director Taryn Fenske told Insider. 

This is the second lawsuit so far over the governor's controversial actions. On September 20, a Boston-based civil rights firm representing a group of migrants and an immigration nonprofit network sued DeSantis, alleging migrants were tricked into boarding the flights with false promises of jobs and other support. 

A Texas sheriff also has opened a criminal investigation and several Democrats have called for a Department of Justice Investigation.

DeSantis' actions were viewed by critics as a cruel stunt that misled vulnerable people escaping a communist regime. Congressional Republicans, however, have embraced the issue as the national conversation has shifted to focus on immigration and border security ahead of the midterm elections. 

The latest lawsuit, spanning 15 pages, was filed in state court in Leon County, where the state capital of Tallahassee is located. Pizzo filed the lawsuit in his personal capacity as a Florida resident. 

Using a screenshot of state budget figures, the lawsuit shows the state spent $615,000 on transportation, as well as on Texas hotels and lodging, through an air charter company called Vertol Systems Company, Inc.

The company has ties to GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Florida's safety coordinator Larry Keefe, who both represented Vertol in a civil lawsuit in 2017, NBC News reported

The lawsuit shows a separate transaction of $950,000 to Vertol Systems, but it's not clear where precisely those funds went.

The Miami Herald reported a group of Venezuelan migrants had expected to be flown from San Antonio to Delaware on Tuesday but that the flight was canceled. DeSantis has publicly said he's considering sending flights to Delaware, Biden's home state where the president has a beach house, but his office hasn't commented about what happened earlier this week. 

Pizzo filed his lawsuit against DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue. 

Read the original article on Business Insider
AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Business Insider

Business Insider
Business Insider
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon