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    Alleged misdeeds blamed on ignorance

    ©Associated Press
    April 17, 2003

    PENSACOLA -- A suspended Escambia County commissioner went before an administrative law judge to deny that he tried to hide illegal contributions. He blamed alleged campaign financing violations on his ignorance and on sloppy record keeping.

    Terry Smith, 47, is facing 97 possible violations stemming from the 2000 election. They include signing 50 campaign reports and amendments containing false information, failing to deposit funds within five days and accepting contributions after he was elected.

    "I had nothing to hide," Smith said at his hearing Tuesday. "I assumed, which is the wrong thing to do, that I knew the rules."

    Administrative Law Judge Harry Hooper will recommend action to the Florida Elections Commission. The panel has the power to order fines.

    Smith is one of four Escambia commissioners suspended last year by Gov. Jeb Bush after they were arrested on charges unrelated to the campaign allegations.

    Smith subsequently was convicted, fined and ordered to do community service for violating Florida's open-government Sunshine Laws. He was found guilty of discussing public business in private with another suspended commissioner, former Florida Senate President W.D. Childers, who has been convicted on a Sunshine count and on charges of bribery and unlawful compensation.

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