The Florida legislator who sponsored the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as it was dubbed by opponents, resigned on Thursday, a day after being accused of fraudulently obtaining tens of thousands of dollars from a federal Covid-relief program.
State Rep. Joseph Harding, a Republican, announced his resignation “effective immediately,” despite being charged with wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements, and other offenses.
According to the six-count indictment, Harding, 35, sought more than $150,000 in Covid-relief loans and received approximately $45,000 in January and February 2021, for a pair of companies that had been dormant in the months preceding the applications.
In a resignation letter addressed to Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and posted on Harding’s campaign Facebook page, he stated that his legal problems, which included a trial in the case scheduled to begin in January, demanded his full attention.
“It has been an honor to serve the people of this state, particularly the people of Levy and Marion Counties,” Harding said. “However, due to legal issues that require my full attention, I believe that now is the time to let someone else serve my district.”
“I understand and respect his decision to submit his resignation,” Renner said in a statement, adding that “any questions about his case should be directed to his legal counsel.”
According to the indictment, Harding claimed in Small Business Administration applications in 2020 that Vak Shack Inc. and Harding Farms had a half-dozen employees and gross revenue of more than $800,000 the previous year. According to state records, the entities were dormant and had no employees.
In court on Wednesday, Harding pleaded not guilty.
Harding mentioned in a statement on Thursday via facebook that he had “paid every penny” of the loan