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Radacky cleared in autographed football request

Attorneys say he did nothing illegal in asking a banker seeking zoning variances to get a Steve Spurrier-signed football.

By WILL VAN SANT
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 16, 2003


BROOKSVILLE -- The county Legal Department said Tuesday that Administrator Dick Radacky did no wrong when he asked a prominent businessman seeking zoning variances from the county to get a football autographed for him by football coach Steve Spurrier.

That conclusion comes five days after the Times reported that Radacky asked SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast chairman and chief executive officer Jim Kimbrough to get Spurrier's autograph on a football owned by the administrator's son. The ball already bore the signature of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

The request came during the same time that Kimbrough, whose bank provides a host of financial services to the county, was seeking zoning changes that would allow development of two parcels he owns at the Western Way Plaza shopping center at State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard.

The county's gift policy prohibits anything of value to be solicited or accepted by employees if "with the exercise of reasonable care" the recipient knows it is given to garner influence. The policy also expressly forbids gifts from those doing business with the county.

Assistant County Attorney Kurt Hitzemann, who researched the issue, concluded that a gift is a "personal service for which a fee is charged." In this case, the attorney said, there was no fee associated with the signature and, hence, no violation.

"There was no further analysis needed," Hitzemann said.

One sports memorabilia specialist contacted by the Times put the value of a football signed by Spurrier, the onetime University of Florida coach now leading the Washington Redskins, at between $150 and $225.

Both Kimbrough, who was not immediately available for comment Tuesday, and Radacky have said the transaction in no way influenced the zoning process. The changes were passed by county commissioners April 8. Three restaurants and a retail store are being considered for Western Way.

During the previous week, two county department heads say, Radacky uncharacteristically called them at home after work to urge the project forward. Neither says he felt pressured by Radacky to look favorably on the zoning change request.

"I feel vindicated," Radacky said shortly after commissioners voted unanimously to let the issue rest. "I'm going to put this behind me."

Many in the audience at Tuesday's commission meeting, during which the Legal Department announced its finding, defended Radacky as a noble man who had been subject to a smear campaign by the Times.

Dom Cabriele, who leads the county's Democratic Executive Committee, praised Radacky as an honest, able man whose reputation had been "skewered."

Cabriele brought in two neon-colored kids footballs, and, with the blessing of County Attorney Garth Coller, asked Radacky to sign them.

Radacky obliged.

-- Will Van Sant covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6127. Send e-mail to vansant@sptimes.com .

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