Prosecutor was campaign host for Blair
TAMPA -- The prosecutor who cleared former Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair of child abuse charges last week served as a campaign party host for him last July.
State Attorney Mark Ober is listed as an "honorary host" of a July 15 fundraising party for Blair, a fellow Republican, held at the home of Marc and Debra Mandt. Blair was in the midst of a re-election campaign that he ultimately lost to Democrat Kevin Beckner.
Ober said he neither attended the event nor contributed money to Blair's campaign. He said he and Blair shared the same political consultant, Michael Corcoran, who asked him to lend his name as an event host, which is not uncommon.
There would not have been a conflict even if he attended, Ober said. Since Blair is no longer a commissioner, he has no control over the purse strings for the State Attorney's office. So Ober said he saw no reason to ask another state attorney to review the case.
"I try not to, when I don't have a real conflict, get off of these cases and burden another state attorney with it," Ober said. "I am able to make the decision honestly and ethically."
Blair was arrested last month, accused of punching his two sons during an early morning Father's Day altercation. A prosecutor who reports to Ober examined the case and found that Blair sustained more blows tham he gave. She concluded that Blair's actions had been defensive, and the scuffle could be characterized as "discipline" in response to a pattern of ongoing aggression from his oldest son.
-- Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer