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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Times Ed Board: Bennett should know better

Jamie Bennett needs to understand the distinction between acting as a member of the St. Petersburg City Council and acting as a candidate for mayor. When he uses his campaign manager to offer tickets to the city's taxpayer-financed suite at Tropicana Field, it's clear he needs a little schooling on the difference.

As a member of the council, Bennett is entitled to use of the suite for Tampa Bay Rays games. Typically, arrangements go through the City Council office. Because mayoral candidates cannot use taxpayer resources to specifically benefit their campaigns, a candidate who also holds public office should tread carefully.

Bennett says that wasn't his intent when his volunteer campaign manager Peter Schorsch e-mailed several neighborhood association presidents to invite them to the suite later this month. "I've got Peter riding around with me all day," Bennett said. "I asked him to make some calls."

Schorsch says he helps Bennett with many things, not just his campaign. Both men miss the point. A conflict of interest — in appearance or in reality — is a serious issue for a mayoral candidate. Having the campaign manager invite potential supporters or contributors to a publicly financed stadium suite sends the wrong message. Bennett has been around City Hall long enough to know better.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:51am]


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