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Key West officials suspended

Gov. Lawton Chiles on Monday suspended Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow and City Commissioner Emery Major, who were charged in unrelated indictments last week with influence peddling.

Wardlow, 51, and Major, 44, were charged along with Key West attorney John Bigler Jr. by a federal grand jury in Miami. The corruption scandal is the third to hit the island in as many decades.

At a City Commission meeting the day after the indictment was announced, Wardlow announced through a letter he had asked Chiles to replace him while he fights his case.

Wardlow is accused of accepting bribes to benefit a water sports business owned by Bigler, 53, and lying to federal agents. The mayor has denied taking bribes and says he was a public relations consultant for Bigler.

Major is accused of soliciting and taking bribes from the owner of a proposed Cadillac tour service in exchange for help in getting the owner a business license.

If convicted, Wardlow faces up to 20 years in prison, while Major could get up to 35 years.