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Ethics commission recommends $750 fine for former Manatee commissioner Brown

TALLAHASSEE -- The state ethics commission has recommended a $750 civil penalty against former Manatee County commissioner Gwen Brown in a settlement agreement stemming from her misuse of county staff and equipment from 2008 to early 2010.

During a public hearing Friday, the Florida Commission on Ethics accepted the agreement proposal, a release from the commission said. The recommendation goes to Gov. Rick Scott for an executive order.

On Jan. 15, 2010, the county clerk’s internal audit department received an anonymous complaint -- Brown later said it was from Commissioner Donna Hayes -- alleging that Brown was using county staff to type, e-mail and copy documents relating to her job as an adjunct professor at State College of Florida. The documents included syllabi, tests and quizzes.

Brown, who was defeated in the August primary by current District 2 Commissioner Michael Gallen, faced a maximum $10,000 fine and public censure.

But the release said the ethics commission accepted the agreement “because Brown has already reimbursed the county twice the amount of money her actions cost.”

Brown paid back $1,800, even though the value of the services and equipment she misused was placed at $812 by a county internal report.

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