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    Inquiry widens for ex-Senate boss

    The IRS and a federal grand jury are scrutinizing former state Senate President W.D. Childers.

    ©Associated Press
    May 31, 2002

    PENSACOLA -- Former Florida Senate President W.D. Childers, already under state indictment, is being investigated by a federal grand jury and the Internal Revenue Service.

    Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Bonnie Jones confirmed federal authorities sought copies of records related to Childers' campaign contributions and expenditures, financial disclosures, oaths of office and correspondence dating to 1996.

    Childers, a Pensacola Republican, then was in the Senate. He was forced out after 30 years by term limits in 2000 but was elected that year as a county commissioner.

    He is facing trial June 24 on state misdemeanor charges of violating Florida's open-government Sunshine Law by discussing public business in private with other Escambia commissioners.

    Three fellow commissioners are facing similar charges, and Gov. Jeb Bush has suspended all four. Two of the commissioners, Willie Junior and Mike Bass, also have been charged with more serious crimes, including racketeering and bribery.

    Childers' lawyer, Fred Levin, said Wednesday he did not know what the IRS and federal grand jury are investigating. He said Childers would not comment.

    "I would certainly be concerned if I were W.D.," Levin said. "I wouldn't laugh it off."

    The IRS and federal grand jury also are investigating Junior. A state grand jury that indicted the suspended commissioners is continuing its investigation as well, and that could lead to additional charges.

    Jones said Wednesday she did not have all documents requested on Childers and told an FBI agent that some could be obtained from state elections officials in Tallahassee.

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