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Date of Issue: June 16, 2010

No ethics violation by Stoltzfus

The Florida Commission on Ethics last week dismissed an ethics complaint against Anna Maria Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus after the nine-member board found no basis for a violation of state ethics laws.

The FCE said the commission found the charges brought by Holmes Beach businessman John Cagnina were “legally insufficient,” and did not reflect “the accuracy of the allegations in the complaint.”

In the dismissal, FCE Chair Roy Rogers said the committee considered the complaint for “legal sufficiency” and its review was limited to questions of jurisdiction and the adequacy of Cagnina’s details.

The committee’s jurisdiction does not extend to Florida’s Sunshine Law. Cagnina had alleged Stoltzfus had violated the law through various e-mails.

The FCE concluded that the complaint describes an “alleged situation susceptible to a possible remedy,” rather than alleging a “corruptly motivated use of office.”

Remedies to the allegations made by Cagnina are available “through the courts, prosecutors, local government board considerations, recall efforts or the standard elections process.

“Accordingly, this complaint is dismissed for failure to constitute a legally sufficient complaint,” concluded Rogers.

In a press release from the Allen Dell, P.A. law firm in Tampa, Stoltzfus expressed his gratitude to the FCE and its prompt action.

“I certainly appreciate the diligence and speed with which the commission disposed of these baseless allegations. I knew in my heart I had not violated any ethics laws, and now everybody else knows it, too,” Stoltzfus said.

Cagnina said, “Contrary to the statement from Commissioner Stoltzfus, this does not clear him of wrongdoing. It simply states the remedies are recall, currently under way.”

Stoltzfus’ attorney, Richard Harrison, said Anna Maria is “now responsible for payment of the legal fees incurred by Stoltzfus in successfully defending himself in the ethics case. Stoltzfus may also seek to recover his legal fees from Cagnina,” although “no decision in that regard has been made,” the release said.

On June 11, Harrison e-mailed the city that Stoltzfus intends to bill the city for his legal expenses in fighting the ethics complaint.

Anna Maria city attorney Jim Dye has said the city might be obligated for a portion of Stoltzfus’ legal fees — estimated at about $7,500 — but any decision on fees and amounts would be made through the Florida legal system.