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Initial findings favor LaBrake

The state Ethics Commission has made a preliminary finding that ousted city housing chief Steve LaBrake violated no ethics codes in the scandal that cost him his job, city officials said.

The commission investigated whether LaBrake ran afoul of the codes by promoting his girlfriend, Lynne McCarter, who worked as his top aide in the city, and whether the couple used their influence to obtain a bargain deal on a luxury home in South Tampa.

It also investigated the propriety of McCarter's selling gift bags through her personal business to a nonprofit group, Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan, which has received millions of dollars in grants and contracts through LaBrake's former office.

In a preliminary report that must be approved by the Ethics Commission before it is final, the commission's attorneys found LaBrake and McCarter did not violate any of those counts.

The ethics matters are separate from federal and state investigations, which are continuing.

The Ethics Commission did find, however, that McCarter was in technical violation of one code. That involves the contracts she struck with Ryan Construction to build the South Tampa home. The violation stems from the fact that Ryan's business is subject to the regulation of her department at the city.

Tampa Mayor Dick Greco asked the Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion. The city's report on the matter cited codes that might have been violated, but drew no conclusions.

Greco placed LaBrake on paid suspension from his $105,000-a-year job in October, giving him 90 days of pay while he defended himself against allegations of wrongdoing.