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Gov. Chiles won't suspend town officials

Published Jun. 10, 1993|Updated Oct. 9, 2005

Gov. Lawton Chiles will not suspend Kenneth City's mayor and council members charged with holding Town Council meetings in secret, authorities said Wednesday.

The mayor, two current and three former members of the council were charged June 2 with violating Florida's Sunshine Law.

Carl Schleck, a council member when the charges were filed, was killed in a car accident June 4. His funeral was Wednesday.

Mayor Lester Eshleman, in a brief interview Wednesday, said he had not heard directly from the governor's office on the suspension. He said he hopes city business returns to normal.

Council member Harold Paxton, who also was charged, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Jo Miglino, Chiles' spokeswoman, said the decision not to suspend the officials came shortly before the governor went to North Carolina on vacation. "He wants to let the case run its course," Miglino said. "That's been his sentiment all along."

Once the case has gone through the courts, Chiles will decide how to proceed, Miglino said.

The mayor and council members met privately 12 times between October 1991 and November 1992, according to subpoenas issued by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.

Each meeting, if substantiated as a violation, is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a possible penalty of 60 days in jail and a fine of $500.

The Sunshine Law requires elected officials to discuss all official business in open meetings, with notice to the public.

Eshleman, Paxton and former council members Alice B. Kinney, Charles Knox and Nancy Baker are accused of attending the secret meetings.

Baker attended 12 meetings, Kinney attended 11, Paxton attended six and Knox attended two, according to the charges.

Eshleman has denied any wrongdoing in the case. Earlier this month, he said, "My interpretation of the Sunshine Law is that we cannot discuss anything with each other if there is going to be a vote taken down the road. We realize that. We were not prediscussing anything that might be voted on."