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Former commissioner fined for campaign reporting errors

ST. PETE BEACH — Former Commissioner Harry Metz must pay a $500 fine for failing to completely report his income and assets during his 2007 political campaign.

After a two-year-long investigation, the Florida Commission on Ethics ruled last month that Metz had failed to disclose several required items on a financial statement he filed with the city clerk in January 2007.

Specifically, Metz did not fully report business and rental income from his Sundeck business, located at 7217 Gulf Blvd.

Metz did report the Sundeck as a secondary source of income, but he apparently should have included it under the primary income section, since the business generated a gross income of $107,755 in 2006.

The ethics investigation noted that although Metz had violated state law, his "omission was not meant to deceive the public."

The ethics investigator also said rental income from one of the Sundeck's tenants should have been included as a secondary source of income.

In addition, Metz did not report any intangible personal property, even though he had several money market accounts the ethics commission said should have been listed.

Metz formally acknowledged the violations listed by the ethics commission, but has not yet received the official order to pay the $500 fine.

He said he and his wife voluntarily showed the investigators their tax returns and bank statements during the investigation.

"If we hadn't done that, the case would have gone away. But I didn't want it to appear that I was hiding anything," Metz said Friday.

The complaint against Metz and a similar complaint against former Commissioner Linda Chaney was filed in July 2007 by Raymond Thibodeau in a 55-page document alleging they not only failed to properly report income and assets, but that they had received free legal services, an action that could have influenced their official actions as an elected official.

The ethics commission dismissed those charges against both Metz and Chaney.

Last September, the commission found probable cause that Chaney had failed to accurately report rental income on her financial disclosure form, but also found that she "took steps to accurately report her interests and there was no intent to mislead." The commission voted to take no further action and did not fine Chaney.

Both Chaney and Metz did not run for re-election this year.

Thibodeau said Friday he filed the complaints because he did not like how the two candidates presented themselves during the 2007 election.

He acknowledged he supported the Save Our Little Village political organization at the time.

Metz and Chaney were organizers of the rival Citizens for Responsible Growth organization.

The two organizations represent sharply differing political camps that have embroiled the city in more than a quarter of a million dollars in lawsuits over development issues.

Former commissioner fined for campaign reporting errors 08/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 4:31am]
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