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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas County suspends attorney



In the first official fallout from the controversy over the purchase of Pinellas Property Appraiser Jim Smith's private land, the County Commission voted unanimously this afternoon to suspend County Attorney Susan Churuti with pay.

Commissioners, however, didn't approve the second part of the motion by Commissioner Karen Seel, which was also to suspend County Administrator Steve Spratt. Seel said she had lost trust in both Churuti and Spratt and "my trust can't be retrieved." Commissioner Susan Latvala echoed Seel's concerns, saying new documents keep appearing "that we've never seen before."

Churuti has been under fire after the St. Petersburg Times revealed that prior to the county closing the deal to buy Smith's property for $225,000, the 20-year county veteran obtained conflict of interest waivers so that she might  represent both the county and Smith's private claim in the transaction.

Spratt, too, has been critized heavily because his original accounting of the transaction to commissioners, in a July 13 written report, omitted several key details. A Pinellas County grand jury is scheduled to begin an investigation of the deal on Thursday.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:55pm]


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