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Judge steps down from hospital-files lawsuit

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2000

TAMPA -- At the request of Tampa General Hospital, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Edward Ward has recused himself from a lawsuit filed by the Tampa Tribune to get access to the hospital's financial records.

The hospital's new president, Ron Hytoff, had said in an affidavit that he feared Ward had ruled for the newspaper in the public records case to keep it from publishing embarrassing stories about him.

In an order signed Wednesday, Ward wrote that "no bias or impropriety exists," but said the hospital's motion to disqualify him met the legal requirements and removed himself from the case. The case was reassigned to Circuit Judge Manuel Menendez.

On Oct. 27, Ward ruled that Tampa General must abide by the state's Public Records and Government in the Sunshine laws. He also awarded the Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times attorneys' fees in the case.

This month, the Judicial Qualifications Commission accused Ward of kissing a female judge without her consent, inviting a woman into his office for beer and sending sexually suggestive e-mails to other women who work at the courthouse. Both newspapers reported on the charges.

Ward has not formally responded to the allegations.

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