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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Ethics commission: No violation by Lohn

The Florida Commission on Ethics has cleared the chair of the Bradenton Beach Board of Adjustment of any wrongdoing in a charge that he used his position improperly.

Ken Lohn was taken to task by developer Steve Noriega over comments allegedly made a year ago regarding a project Noriega was building next to Lohn's home on Bay Drive South. Noriega filed a civil suit against Lohn, and also filed a complaint against him with the state ethic's committee.

The complaint was broken into two elements:

That Lohn allegedly "violated [state law] by soliciting [Noriega's] agreement to modify proposed construction with the understanding that [Lohn's] official action as a member of the board of adjustment would be influenced thereby," according to an assessment by James H. Peterson III, advocate for the Florida Commission on Ethics with the Office of the Attorney General.

Peterson ruled that there "is no probable cause to believe [Lohn] violated [Florida law] by soliciting [Noriega's] agreement to modify proposed construction."

The second element of the complaint, according to Peterson, alleged that Lohn violated state law "by attempting to use his position [as chair of the board of adjustment] for an advantage during negotiations with [Noriega] and/or to improperly influence the board of adjustment."

Peterson found that after review the allegation was "insufficient to support the conclusion that [Lohn] used or attempted to use his position to gain an advantage during his negotiations with [Noriega]."

The Commission on Ethics agreed with Peterson's assessment, finding "that there is no probable cause to believe [Lohn violated state law] by soliciting the [Noriega's] agreement to modify proposed construction with the understanding that [Lohn's] official action as a member of the board would be influenced thereby; and finds that there is no probable cause to believe [Lohn] violated [state law] by attempting to use his public position for an advantage during negotiations with [Noriega] and/or to improperly influence the board, as alleged in this complaint," according to the public report issued by John A. Grant Jr., vice chair, Sept. 2.

The complaint was dismissed.

"The year-long investigation has concluded that the allegations by Noriega were false," Lohn wrote in a letter. "I certainly hope this exoneration gets as much publicity as did Noriega's false allegations."

The civil action between Lohn and Noriega is still pending.