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Panel rejects probe of Weeki Wachee mayor

The ethics panel says the issues involve Robyn Anderson's role as park manager, not as mayor.

By ROBERT KING
Published December 10, 2003

The Florida Commission on Ethics has dismissed an ethics complaint against Weeki Wachee Mayor Robyn Anderson that was filed by a Weeki Wachee Springs employee Anderson fired earlier this year.

The complaint from Debbie Dunsmore, who worked in the marketing department at Weeki Wachee Springs, said Anderson deprived food service employees of gratuities they were due and fired Dunsmore for speaking out against the practice. It also said Anderson spent park money on 20 Tampa Bay Bucs tickets for staffers, trips to Las Vegas and free lunches for the office staff at a time when the park was asking the public for donations to help the ailing attraction.

The ethics commission did not review the facts of the case. Instead, the commission determined that the issues raised were related solely to Anderson's private role as park manager. The ethics commission deals only with public officials.

"There is no indication that (Anderson) used her position as mayor to obtain a special privilege or benefit for herself or someone else in a manner which would be inconsistent with the proper performance of her duties," the commission's order states.

Dunsmore said someone should hold Anderson accountable for her actions. She said she was disappointed the ethics commission would not.

"Who do you write to?" Dunsmore asked.

Anderson, who could not be reached Tuesday, has said Dunsmore's complaints were those of a disgruntled employee who was fired for "talking down" the company - a right Anderson says a manager should have.

Anderson said she held gratuities only once, when food service at an event was very poor; She said the Bucs tickets were a reward for the hard work of senior staffers; and that the Las Vegas trip pertained to an amusement industry trade show.

Dunsmore is one of at least three Hernando County residents who say they filed ethics complaints against Anderson.

The commission itself does not confirm complaints until it has a chance to assess them.

Dunsmore's complaint is the first to be addressed.

To defend herself against the ethics complaints, Anderson hired Tallahassee lawyer Mark Herron, a former chairman of Florida's Ethics Commission and considered to be an expert on Florida's ethics and elections law.

Herron said Dunsmore's complaints dealt more with employment issues than public ethics.

Herron gained a place in history in 2000 when, as a member of Al Gore's legal team during the election recount, he authored a letter challenging the legality of military ballots that lacked a postmark. The move drew criticism from veterans and military families.

- Information from Times files was used in this report. Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 352 848-1432. Send e-mail to rking@sptimes.com

[Last modified December 10, 2003, 01:34:25]


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