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ETHICS PANEL FINES EX-MEMBER OF PSC

The fine pertains to a memo he received.

Former Public Service Commission member Rudy Bradley was fined $5,000 Friday for his role in a notorious case in which he was fed a memo written by Verizon Communications as part of a rate hearing, read from it to argue the utility's position, and kept it secret.

A unanimous Commission on Ethics punished Bradley for violating a law that bars ex parte communication between PSC members and utilities they regulate on the merits of a pending case. Any contact must be disclosed within 15 days.

The largest fine the panel can levy is $10,000.

At an October 2002 hearing, an investigation showed, Bradley quoted word-for-word from the memo in a discussion of the wholesale rates Verizon could charge competing firms for access to its network.

Verizon lost the case and later used Bradley's remarks at the PSC hearing in papers filed with the Florida Supreme Court.

"He (Bradley) knew that thing was from Verizon and he shouldn't have read it into the record," said James Peterson, the advocate or prosecutor in the case.

To the end, Bradley denied wrongdoing.

He was not at Friday's hearing, but his attorney, Wilson Jerry Foster, told the ethics panel the case should be dropped because Bradley did not "knowingly" receive the memo.

"My client is innocent of the allegation that he knowingly received the document," Foster told reporters. "The evidence in the record does not show that."

Foster said the memo was given to Bradley's aide, but Peterson cited "overwhelming evidence" that Bradley knew of the memo's origins and was "evasive" under questioning.

"He acted guilty about it," Peterson said of Bradley.

Bradley, 61, is a former state representative from St. Petersburg. Elected in 1994 as a Democrat, he later became a Republican and quit his House seat in 2001 to accept former Gov. Jeb Bush's appointment as one of five PSC members.

An attorney for Common Cause, James Monroe, filed the complaint against Bradley in 2004.

Technically, the fine against Bradley is a recommendation to Gov. Charlie Crist, who can accept or reject it.

Crist declined to comment, saying he had not reviewed the case. But either way, Bradley's ethics troubles are not over.

He's under investigation for his presence at two dinners attended by PSC commissioners where utilities paid the tabs.

In a separate case involving one of those dinners, former PSC Chairman Braulio Baez agreed Friday to pay a fine of $1,170 for his involvement in a 2002 dinner at a swank South Beach restaurant hosted by Florida Power & Light. The amount reflects the actual $170 cost of Baez's meal and a $1,000 fine.

In a third case, the ethics commission voted to take no further action in the first known case of a state agency admitting it broke the law by spending tax money to pay three outside lobbyists. By law, only full-time employees of state agencies can directly lobby for them.

The panel took no action because Florida International University admitted the mistake, which lasted for at least four years, and FIU brought it to the attention of the ethics commission last year.

Times staff writer Aaron Sharockman contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

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