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Ethics panel urges fine, reprimand for legislator

The state Ethics Commission recommended Friday that the House fine former lawmaker Winston "Bud" Gardner $4,346 and publicly reprimand him for a Key West fishing trip paid for by lobbyists.

The commission also voted to drop a case against Rep. Jack Tobin, D-Margate, over a proposed zoning change in Broward County.

Saying other lawmakers and even an Ethics Commission member had received similar favors, Gardner, D-Titusville, said he may appeal the ruling that his 1988 trip violated ethics laws.

And if the case does reach the House, Gardner said, the penalty may be more lenient.

House Speaker Bo Johnson, D-Milton, like Gardner, was elected to his first House term in 1978. "He has taken trips just like pretty much everybody else has from that period of time, and I think his understanding will be a little bit different," Gardner said.

Johnson wasn't in his office and couldn't be reached, spokeswoman Kathy Putnam said. "We're reviewing the procedure to determine the process for handling the Ethics Commission recommendation," she said.

Gardner has 30 days to decide whether to challenge the commission's findings in court. "I am leaning strongly in that direction," he said.

He said a review of records for the six years before his trip revealed that lawmakers reported some 1,500 similar trips.