State Senator Maria Sachs has taken to social media in a desperate attempt to convince her fellow lawmakers that she actually lives in District 34. According to Section 15, Article III of the Florida Constitution, a state senator must live in the district he or she represents as of the date of their election. An April 2013 investigation cast doubts upon Sachs’ claim she lived in a small, 740-square foot apartment in her Senate district owned by lobbyist Judy Stern instead of the five-acre equestrian estate she owns in Boca Raton. Her husband Peter and her children live in the Boca Raton estate which lies outside the boundaries of District 34. When an investigator visited the apartment owned by Stern, he was told the unit had been vacant for at least six months.
In July 2013, WPLG Local 10 aired video obtained by a private investigator showing Sachs staying overnight at her Boca Raton equestrian estate. The video showed Sachs arriving at night, leaving the next morning, and returning later that evening. Sachs claimed the report by Local 10 investigator Bob Norman was a partisan attack. “Republicans have spent millions attacking me and those attacks unfortunately did not stop with the election. But sadly, the Republicans’ well-funded attacks against me are getting more and more personal,” said Sachs.
This was not Sachs’ first time playing residency games. While serving as a member of the Florida House in 2008, Sachs appeared to live outside District 86. Since her five-acre Boca Raton estate is not located in district 86, Sachs rented a small apartment in Delray Beach. “I am claiming residency within my district, and I do live there,” Sachs told the Sun Sentinel. “I also do live in Tallahassee, and I also do live at [the house west of Boca Raton].”
When asked how many nights she spends at each home, Sachs said it “is not important as long as I follow the law.”
After news reports cast doubt upon her claims to live in Stern’s apartment, Sachs found a new place to call home. She rented a Delray Beach condominium at 1000 Lowry Street. Sachs provided this address to State officials after a July 24 letter from Speaker of the House Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) and Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) outlined a series of steps necessary to investigate claims that a legislator is unlawfully living outside the district she represents. Weatherford and Gaetz noted, “The Florida Constitution provides that each house of the Legislature is the sole judge of the qualifications of its members.”
Last March, Florida lawmakers addressed residency issues at the start of the legislative session. Joint Rule 7 of the Joint Rules of the Florida Legislature Resolution states,” A member shall be a legal resident and elector of his or her district at the time of election and shall maintain his or her legal residence within that district for the duration of his or her term of office. While a member may have multiple residences, he or she shall have only one legal residence. The legal residence of a member at a designated location is demonstrated by a totality of the circumstances.”
The Joint Rule states legal residence can be determined by several factors including voter registration records, bank records, homestead tax exemptions, the “abandonment of a prior legal residence” by selling that residence or giving up “rights and privileges” regarding the other residence, receipt of mail. and the location of a legislator’s spouse and minor children. State lawmakers will be required to affirm, in writing, that he or she resides within the district. If evidence shows a lawmaker does not reside within the district, the legislature, acting as the sole judge in residency matters, will determine a vacancy has occurred.
Now, Sachs is using social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to build a case that she actually lives in the Delray Beach condominium. On June 18, Sachs posted a picture of her view from her Delray Beach balcony. She wrote, “The early quiet of the morning is my favorite time of the day.” The picture featured a coffee cup, a letter and a million dollar yacht docked along the Intracoastal waterway.
On June 19, Sachs wrote on Facebook, “Heading over to see my mom, so happy she lives nearby now.” The next day, Sachs provided another early morning view of fancy yachts on the Intracoastal waterway. She wrote, “Good morning is not just a word, its an action and a belief to live the entire day well. Morning is the time you set the tone for the rest of the day. Set it right!”
On June 21, Sachs posed for a picture on her Delray Beach balcony. She posted the glamour shot on Facebook and Twitter. The caption read, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive–to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love–then make that day count!”
Sachs faces a tough rematch this November against her 2012 opponent, former State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff.