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Seibert's new job results in silent exit to Tallahassee

Even though he won't officially step down from the County Commission until Friday, Steve Seibert has no plans to attend Tuesday's meeting.

He'll be in Tallahassee with his new boss, Gov.-elect Jeb Bush, who is being inaugurated Tuesday.

Bush picked Seibert to be the next secretary of the Department of Community Affairs, the agency that oversees the state's growth management policies.

Though it might seem like a no-brainer, the decision to skip his last commission meeting caused Seibert a little pain.

He would have liked to have addressed his colleagues on the commission and the public one last time. He never got the chance because he missed the last commission meeting just before Christmas.

He was in Tallahassee then for Bush's news conference to announce his appointment.

Now, as Seibert leaves for higher office, he remembers something former County Commissioner Charles Rainey told him.

"I learned a lesson; once you are no longer in office here, you need to bow out gracefully and let the current board and whoever replaces you govern," Seibert said. "What I think about the future of Pinellas County is no longer relevant."

That, of course, isn't entirely true. As head of the DCA, Seibert has ultimate authority over the county's comprehensive growth plan.

AND IN RELATED NEWS: Even before Seibert's appointment, the sharks began circling his commission seat. The list of people interested in replacing Seibert is at least a half dozen names long.

They include the chairman of the county's Republican Party, a Clearwater city commissioner, a state representative, at least two former County Commission candidates and two former School Board members.

Well, some Republican insiders in Tallahassee are floating a new name as a possibility: erstwhile state senator and U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist.

Crist, who earned the nickname Chain Gang Charlie because of his proposal while in the Legislature to bring back prison chain gangs, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Well, the County Commission is a long way from the U.S. Senate, but on the other hand, Crist is out of a job. When asked about Crist, Bush stuck with his poker face.

"That's a great idea. I'll add him to the list, if he wants it," Bush told a Times reporter.

TAKING THE BITE OUT OF CRIME: Charles Buis is expected to appear today before a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge to ask that sheriff's deputies give back to him something he greatly desires.

It isn't his freedom. It's his teeth.

It was Sept. 30 when deputies spotted Buis driving in Largo. A deputy stopped him for a traffic violation and, in a report, said he saw Buis trying to swallow a "white, rock-like substance" resembling crack cocaine.

Deputy Jeffrey Peasley reached inside Buis' mouth to retrieve the suspected crack. According to a motion filed by Buis' attorney, John Trevena, the deputy "dislodged (Buis') dentures, causing them to catapult from (his) mouth onto the trunk of the police cruiser."

The deputies managed to retrieve some of the substance from Buis' mouth. They said it tested positive as cocaine. Buis was arrested, charged with possession and released on bail.

Today, Buis will ask a judge to suppress the evidence of crack, arguing it was illegally obtained.

And he will ask the judge for something else _ the return of his teeth.

They're still held as evidence.

_ Staff writers Joe Newman, Peter Wallsten and William R. Levesque contributed to this report.