JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Court documents show Republican Gary Adler, a Jacksonville businessman who’s running for the seat in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, is fighting a first-degree misdemeanor charge of false representation as a licensed contractor.
According to an arrest report, he acted as a subcontractor and employed other unlicensed contractors to perform a $100,000 renovation on someone’s home. Adler disputes the charges and says this all started when he sued the homeowner.
“They are not trying to pay their bill and sue me back by saying I’m a licensed contractor, which I’m not a contractor. I’m an interior designer,” Adler said.
News4Jax has also obtained court records that show Adler was recently ordered to pay a plaintiff more than $375,000 after a jury found him guilty in an unrelated civil theft case. Add on attorney fees and court costs and that number jumps to more than $450,000.
Theresa Carli Pontiere, the plaintiff’s attorney in the civil theft case, said the jury made its decision based on evidence.
“All the evidence pointed to him misappropriating the funds that my client asked him to hold,” Pontiere said.
Adler said he’s appealing the verdict in the civil theft case.
“I didn’t do anything wrong and that’s what an appeal court is for so justice is served correctly,” he said.
Court records show he’s scheduled for a “hearing on motion” on Tuesday -- the same day as the Florida Primary. It’s unclear exactly what motion is being discussed by the court that day.
News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney says these legal problems make running for office very difficult, even if the criminal charge is only a misdemeanor.
“When you have a fine, when you have an arrest in a pending case and you have a civil judgement like this, it’s very damaging to your election chances,” Mullaney said. It doesn’t prohibit you from running, nor does it prohibit you from holding office, but it makes it very challenging to be successful in the primary.”
Adler is one of two Republicans running for the Congressional District 5 seat currently occupied by Democratic incumbent Al Lawson.