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Tampa, Hillsborough officials cleared in ethics complaint

By Steve Contorno

A state ethics panel has cleared three local officials of wrongdoing in a complaint related to the awarding of a transportation consulting contract.

The Florida Commission on Ethics announced Wednesday that the citizen complaint against Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman lacked probable cause, exonerating the three from allegations that at one point instigated a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office investigation and ultimately helped opponents derail a proposed sales tax for transportation.

The Sheriff’s investigation found some public records ordinances were violated but, like the ethics commission, it cleared the public officials and others involved of the larger allegations.

The ethics complaint claimed that officials awarded a Go Hillsborough transportation outreach contract to engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff because it was a client of Beth Leytham, a Tampa public relations consultant. Parsons then awarded Leytham a lucrative subctract to work on the outreach campaign.

Leytham had previously provided campaign advice and in some cases donations to Buckhorn, Hagan and Murman.

But the commission upheld the opinion of investigators that there was no probable cause for any violation of the Florida Code of Ethics.