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    Suit against Gallagher set for hearing

    By LUCY MORGAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 1, 2000


    TALLAHASSEE -- On Monday, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will hear arguments in a lawsuit that attempts to have Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher thrown off the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

    Gallagher, a candidate for state insurance commissioner, says the lawsuit filed by his Democratic opponent, Rep. John Cosgrove of Miami, is without legal merit.

    Cosgrove contends that Gallagher failed to submit a proper letter of resignation from his current post to comply with the state's resign-to-run law.

    Instead of resigning on Jan. 2, the first Tuesday of the year when Cabinet members traditionally take office, Gallagher made his resignation effective Wednesday, Jan. 3, the day Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson leaves office.

    Tallahassee lawyer Wilbur Brewton is representing Gallagher. In a motion to dismiss filed Friday, Brewton contends that Gallagher could not take office before Jan. 3 since Nelson's resignation is effective on that day. Until then, there is no vacancy in the office, he said.

    In August, state election officials had ruled Gallagher had complied with state laws in submitting his resignation. Since the remedy for failing to properly resign is immediate resignation, the actions of the two Cabinet members could be declared invalid since early May. Fifty-seven clemency cases,charter school decisions, budget issues, bond issues and more than 30 land purchases are among the actions that could be called into question if they failed to properly resign.

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