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School Board member cleared

Published Oct. 18, 2005

The state Commission on Ethics has cleared School Board member Louise Boehme of charges that she violated a law that requires public officials to disclose 100 percent of property and stock held jointly with a spouse. A complaint had been filed by School Board candidate Diane Rowden, who, at the time, was chairwoman of a political action committee (PAC) formed to defeat Boehme in her bid for re-election.

Boehme on Wednesday had no immediate comment but said she would conduct anews conference at 10 a.m. today at Republican Party headquarters to discuss the commission's findings.

Rowden's complaint alleged that Boehme had failed in her 1987 and 1988 reports to disclose 100 percent of the property and stock she owned jointly.

The law was changed in 1987 to require public officials to list all jointly owned property.

But the commission, in a ruling made public Wednesday, said the change from the previous 50 percent requirement "did not provide explicit guidance in this situation."

It said that while instructions were changed on the 1988 form, the change was not adequately noted.

Boehme has been a School Board member since 1982. She has been separated from her husband for several years and was divorced earlier this year.

"Ms. Boehme has filed her financial disclosure form for 10 years," Commission on Ethics spokeswoman Jane Tillman said.

"If you were to file your disclosure and they change the form and they didn't tell you, then you would do it the way you've always done it. And that was what she basically did," Tillman said.

Rowden, in a prepared statement, said that she was "asked by many citizens of the community to process the violation in the form of a complaint with the state Ethics Commission.

"Even though the media reported that she was at fault, the state ethics commission exonerated her, and I congratulate her."

The charges were reported on April 11 in the Tampa Tribune.

Rowden stepped down as head of the PAC after she announced her candidacy for School Board in May. Rowden's husband, Jay, subsequently took over as chairman of the PAC, which spent more than $5,000 before it was dissolved after Boehme lost in the September primary election to Jeff Stabins.

The commission ruling also cleared Boehme of two other charges relating to her financial disclosure form.

Those charges alleged that Boehme failed to disclose income in 1987 and 1988 from Ranch Hand, a company owned by her husband.

The commission said a divorce court had not yet ruled that income from Ranch Hand was to be used for temporary support payments at the time the financial disclosure forms were filed. In addition, the commission said Boehme had noted on her 1988 form that there were other undetermined assets resulting from a pending divorce.

The commission also cleared Boehme of charges that she failed to disclose a Maryland checking account of her mother's for which she was a co-signatory. The commission said the account should not be considered an asset.