Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Cleared, Gause Wants Apology

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Cleared, Gause Wants Apology

Article excerpt

MANATEE: Schools official says he'd also like accuser to cover his legal fees

MANATEE COUNTY

The person Manatee School District board member Bob Gause most wanted to address had left the boardroom by the time he confirmed at a Monday meeting what some circles have speculated about for months.

The Florida Commission of Ethics began a preliminary investigation this March into whether Gause had failed to disclose his financial interests by allegedly not reporting an asset.

But documents show that the state found no probable cause that Gause violated Florida law requiring elected officials to disclose their assets. And Gause said that recommendation was confirmed last week in a hearing.

Now Gause wants a public apology and reimbursement for more than $12,000 in legal expenses from the citizen that filed the complaint, Manatee County physician Richard Conard.

"Ideally what I would like for him to do is to publicly acknowledge that he was wrong and I am not guilty of the things he accused me of," Gause said Tuesday. "And ideally he would pay those bills."

Conard did not return a call for comment on Tuesday.

But the former chairman of the citizens group that chose Superintendent Rick Mills to replace former superintendent Tim McGonegal made clear in his complaint that he felt Gause's relationship with McGonegal breached public trust and may have influenced an election.

In August 2012, Gause defeated Tea Party candidate Linda Schaich for a school board seat.

A month later, McGonegal announced a $3.4 million budget deficit that would force his resignation and later grow to more than $13 million.

Conard's first complaint, filed in October 2012, alleges that Gause knew of and helped plan the problematic budget. Conard also alleges that McGonegal openly campaigned for Gause, and that McGonegal informed Gause of the impending budget crisis well before the election.

"... there is every indication that this information was withheld from the school board and general public's knowledge so as to influence Mr. Gause's upcoming election," Conard wrote.

Conard did not appear to have provided specific evidence to support this claim, though he provided the names of former finance director Jim Drake, former Superintendent Tim McGonegal, former Assistant Superintendent Bob Gagnon and Schaich. …

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