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Review of Gallagher stock trades is . . . when?

Three weeks after gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher said he would seek an advisory opinion from the Florida Ethics Commission over his stock trading activities, he hasn't submitted the request.

And it's unclear whether Gallagher, the state's chief financial officer, will ever do so.

A campaign spokesman said the plan to request a review by the Ethics Commission was complicated when a formal ethics complaint was filed days later by a Polk County librarian against Gallagher.

Brett Doster, Gallagher's campaign manager, said Gallagher's legal advisers "are trying to work through the (complaint) process to make sure any issues are resolved. That is our goal." But he said it's still unclear what formal steps that might involve.

The St. Petersburg Times first reported Jan. 31 that tax returns show Gallagher, one of Florida's longest-serving elected officials, traded millions of dollars in insurance stocks in 2002 while serving as insurance commissioner. He also owned 1,000 shares in an energy company in 2004 when he voted in its favor as a Cabinet member. The transactions were among hundreds Gallagher made using an online AmeriTrade account.

After the story, Gallagher hired an ethics attorney and announced he would seek a review of the trades by the Ethics Commission. Then four days after that, on Feb. 7, librarian Brenda Titus filed a formal complaint saying Gallagher's ownership of stocks that overlapped with his public duties violated the public trust.

The ethics complaint, though wide ranging, didn't address every issue raised in news accounts of Gallagher's stock buying. The complaint took issue with Gallagher's ownership of certain stocks and the way he performed the trades from a personal laptop in his state office during business hours using the state network.

"It seems that instead of doing the jobs he was elected to do and paid to do, he spent his time day trading," wrote Titus, who provided a copy of the complaint to the Times. ". . . He used the "resource' of state time to benefit himself and not perform his official duties."

Gallagher, after hiring one of Tallahassee's best-known ethics lawyers, said Feb. 3 that he regretted the insurance stock purchases and would ask the Ethics Commission for an advisory, nonbinding opinion of his trading. State law prohibits regulators from having contracts with companies they regulate.

However, lawyer Mark Herron said he didn't believe Gallagher's ownership of 1,000 shares of AES Corp. violated state law, since it amounted to less than 1 percent of the company's shares.

The Cabinet and Gov. Jeb Bush voted unanimously in April 2004 to allow the company to lay a natural gas line off Broward County's coast.

Under Florida law, the Ethics Commission can only act under two conditions: A formal complaint is filed, as in the Titus complaint; or a government official requests an advisory opinion.

Joni James can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or