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Kottkamp cleared in travel ethics complaint

Meeting in closed-door session, the state Commission on Ethics Friday dismissed a citizen's complaint that Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp violated ethics laws by misusing state aircraft for personal travel.

The commission's action -- officially known as a finding of no probable cause -- was confirmed by Dave Plyer, a citizen activist from Clearwater who lodged the complaint against Kottkamp based on news accounts. As the complainant, Plyer was allowed to attend the executive session.

Plyer said the commission, in its report on the case, would make a recommendation that the Legislature change state law "to make a much clearer distinction about what constitutes business travel and political travel." Kottkamp on a number of occasions called for a pilot to fly a state plane to Fort Myers, where he has a home, to pick him up and take him to the Capitol, and he has noted that the state initially refused to allow him to reimburse the state for trips taken by his wife and son.

Plyer said he was satisfied that the ethics panel made the right decision based on what he called the "ambiguity" in state law over the use of state planes for personal use. Kottkamp, a Republican candidate for attorney general, could not immediately be reached for comment, but he had predicted that the complaint would be dismissed.

"I'm satisfied. I thought it was done right," Plyer said. "The statutes are not clear, particularly in the Kottkamp case."

-- Steve Bousquet