'No probable cause' on ethics accusations against Mayor Buckhorn, commissioners

TAMPA, Fla. -- After an abnormally-long two-year investigation by the state's ethics board, it appears no charges will be pursued against Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County commissioners Sandy Murman and Ken Hagan for alleged ethics breaches exposed in a 10Investigates series.

An investigator from the Attorney General's office found "no probable cause" for a set of citizen complaints, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The complaints were filed after 10Investigates showed how close the three elected leaders were to political consultant and lobbyist Beth Leytham, who also helped steer lucrative government contracts to her firm and her clients.

10Investigates also exposed numerous public record failures by the county commissioners, which were echoed in a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office report. HCSO investigators found insufficient evidence to file criminal charges, but suggested Hagan, Buckhorn, and Murman all failed to preserve text messages that may have been public records. 

RELATEDWatch how politicians reacted to 10Investigates' questions
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Fallout prompted the county commission and Tampa city council to adopt new rules on lobbying and record retention.

The state ethics investigation will conclude with a public hearing on October 20 in Tallahassee, where the board may follow the "no probable cause" recommendation and dismiss the cases.

Hagan was fined once by the Florida Commission on Ethics, in 2014 for violations related to financial disclosures.

Neither Hagan nor Murman were available for comment Tuesday morning; a spokesperson for Buckhorn said proceedings before the Commission on Ethics are confidential until the day of the public hearing and the mayor has not waived his right to confidentiality.

RELATED: Ken Hagan, Hillsborough Man of Mystery

10Investigates will continue to report on issues of transparency involving tax money.

Find 10Investigates' Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips confidentially to npransky@wtsp.com.

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