tampabay.com

Legislator convicted in misuse of workers

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published August 15, 2006


ORLANDO - A jury found state Sen. Gary Siplin guilty Monday of using state-paid employees in his 2004 Senate re-election campaign.

The Orlando Democrat was found guilty of third-degree felony grand theft of $5,000 or more, as well as a misdemeanor count of using services of employees for his candidacy. No employee was charged.

He faces up to five years in jail for the felony, court officials said.

Judge Julie O'Kane scheduled Siplin's sentencing for Sept. 27. He remains free on bail.

He stands to lose his seat if his conviction holds up.

In a statement released Monday night, Senate President Tom Lee said he was "saddened" by Siplin's actions.

"Sen. Siplin is entitled to his constitutional due process - which includes the right to appeals," Lee said. "Until then, whether he remains in office is a matter for his conscience."

Prosecutors said Siplin requested two months' leave for a state employee to work on his campaign, but kept her working in that job after she went back on the public payroll. He is also accused of using the services of two other public employees over shorter periods of time.

A lawyer with four children, Siplin listed his net worth at $32,500 for 2004 in financial disclosure records required by the state.

Siplin pleaded not guilty to the charges, filed April 10, but steadfastly refused to comment on them directly.

His attorney, Larry Hardaway, did not immediately return a telephone message Monday.