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Mayor fined on 2005 campaign violations

Originally there were 16 counts against the Port Richey mayor, but it was cut to 13, including some involving hot dogs.

By CAMILLE C. SPENCER
Published May 19, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Elections Commission on Thursday fined Port Richey Mayor Mark Abbott $410 for violations during his April 2005 campaign.

During a hearing Thursday, Abbott's lawyer, Richard Coates, tried to put the charges in perspective.

"There are mistakes here, obviously," Coates said. "When you look at this case, you can't take a one-size-fits-all approach. There's been no money stolen, just mistakes. This is not a governor's race, there's not $8-million on the table. This was an honest attempt to run a campaign."

Elections commission general counsel Charles Finkel advised commission members on criteria they must take into account when considering fines, including the gravity of a violation, the appropriateness of the penalty and the financial resources of the individual.

"Campaign reporting, the who got it, who gave it, is significant," Finkel said. "Running for office is not a game. The ultimate prize is the opportunity to govern people and pass laws that affect their lives."

Coates noted that Abbott only makes $4,320 per year as mayor, and that a fine no higher than $500 would be appropriate, considering Abbott's finances.

Two complaints against Abbott, which initially totaled 16 counts, were combined into one at Thursday's hearing. The first, filed by former Mayor Eloise Taylor, involved nine counts of various campaign violations during Abbott's campaign for mayor of Port Richey last year, including making an illegal contribution to himself.

The second involved a seven-count complaint filed by Port Richey resident Dennis McGill, who said Abbott failed to report campaign expenditures and contributions after a fundraiser where hot dogs were sold.

Commission members dismissed three of the counts, leaving 13 counts against Abbott. He was ordered to pay $50 for each of the seven counts left in the first complaint, and $10 for each of the six counts left in the second complaint, totaling $410.

After the commission's ruling on his fine, Abbott rushed out of the conference center, saying, "The $10 hot dog fine says it all."

He has 30 days to appeal the fine or pay it.

The fine adds to Abbott's list of money woes, which include two foreclosures, child support payments and a failing business, Tech Net, which repairs and sells color scanners to the newspaper and printing industry.

[Last modified May 19, 2006, 03:00:21]


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