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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

No indictments in Jim Smith investigation



Tb_jimsmith300 A grand jury has decided not to issue criminal indictments in the controversy over the Pinellas County Commission's decision to buy a piece of land from longtime Property Appraiser Jim Smith.

Instead, the grand jury Thursday issued a report known as a presentment. The report will remain sealed from public view for 15 days so that anyone mentioned in it has a chance to review the presentment and, if they wish, file a motion to keep it sealed.

The grand jury this month took testimony from more than 40 witnesses, including Smith, County Attorney Susan Churuti, County Administrator Steve Spratt and all seven county commissioners.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe said he was grateful for the grand jury's work and said its response was appropriate for the situation presented to them.

"There was a lot for them to digest and chew on," McCabe said. "They worked hard."

McCabe decided to convene the grand jury after the St. Petersburg Times reported that commissioners voted unanimously on June 5 to buy 1.5 acres that Smith owned in East Lake. The county paid $225,000 -- nearly four times what Smith's office assessed the land for tax purposes.

Churuti represented both the county and Smith in the negotiations leading up to the deal -- something that most commissioners did not know until after they approved the purchase. Commissioners voted July 31 to suspend Churuti with pay while the grand jury scrutinized the deal.

-- Will Van Sant, Times staff writer (Times photo | Douglas R. Clifford)

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:00pm]


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