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Ex-Tampa police captain wins legal fight over loss of post

TAMPA — Former Tampa police Capt. Marion Lewis was not required to leave his job when he decided to run for mayor in 2007, an appeals court ruled Friday.

The decision, written by Judge Charles A. Davis of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, found that while Lewis' name could have been removed from the ballot for not complying with a candidate's oath, qualifying as a candidate was not an effective resignation.

The court reversed a lower court's decision that said Lewis automatically resigned when he qualified for the mayor's race.

Lewis, who dropped out of the March 1 mayoral election earlier this month, claimed victory.

"It was justice and it was a long time coming," Lewis said. "Sometimes justice doesn't prevail, but in this case it did."

City Attorney Chip Fletcher said there would likely be an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, but declined further comment.

Lewis was terminated from his police job when he qualified to run for mayor in 2007. The city claimed that state law does not allow police officials to run against their bosses, who have authority over their jobs.

Lewis lost the race to Mayor Pam Iorio. He sued the city, claiming that he was not required to resign and did not do so. A trial court later sided with the city, saying Lewis effectively resigned when he filed his candidate's oath. Friday's ruling reversed that, citing state law that says a candidate who does not comply with the requirements of the oath can have his or her name removed from a ballot.

Lewis said he pursued the case because he wanted his daughter to see the court rule in his favor, he said. His daughter, now 15, helped work on his 2007 campaign by going door-to-door.

"For her to see justice done, that's the sweetest thing to come out of this," he said.

Lewis now works as an assistant director of security for a local golf and tennis resort. He has not yet decided if he will seek to return to the police force.

"What it will boil down to is whether me and my family will want to do that," Lewis said.

As for the mayor's race, Lewis said he plans to sit out the March election, noting that Friday was the qualifying deadline.

Dan Sullivan can be reached at dsullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3321.

Ex-Tampa police captain wins legal fight over loss of post 01/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 11:46pm]
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