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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rep. Paige Kreegel cleared in elections case

Kreegel20080708_2 A probable cause panel today cleared Rep. Paige Kreegel of any wrongdoing for actions his legislative aide took against a political opponent while working on state time. The aide clearly violated public records law, the panel said, but the Punta Gorda Republican did not engage in electioneering. (story here)

"Based on the evidence before us...I don't see a violation," said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. The three member panel cleared Kreegel, though Rep. Curtis Richardson, D-Tallahassee, obviously felt something was amiss. (photo: Richardson, face to camera, questions Kreegel)

"I hope if nothing else that this sends a message to our colleagues in the Legislature, future legislators, that this kind of action is troubling," Richardson said.

Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, was critical that the accuser, Robert Anderson, did not show up for the hearing, even though Anderson lives in Southwest Florida. Then again, two lawmakers put on the panel by House Speaker Marco Rubio did not show up, either: Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, and Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville.

Kreegel represented himself, saying he thought about bringing a lawyer but instead wanted to tell the truth. "I never asked anybody to research anything."

Kreegel is accused of using his legislative aide, Barry Millman, to undermine a political opponent, Keith Richter. Millman called an official at Hodges University to question Richter's academic credentials.

Florida election law forbids state employees from using a state office during working hours to further a political campaign. But the panel on Tuesday said Kreegel's actions did not rise to electioneering.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:27am]

    

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