From The Tampa Bay Tribune, By Thomas W. Krause
Watchdog Group Reverses Its Findings
A judicial election watchdog group has reversed its opinion that a judge and his challenger violated an ethics code while campaigning.
On Aug. 27, the Hillsborough County Judicial Campaign Practices Committee ruled that during a candidates' forum Judge Charles "Ed" Bergmann violated ethics rules by claiming "an overwhelming number" of family law lawyers were supporting him.
The next day, the committee determined that Bergmann's challenger, Beth Gilmore Reineke, also violated the ethics code when she was quoted in the Gulf Coast Business Review as saying that Bergmann was "just doing time" in the family law division of the courthouse.
At the request of Hillsborough Bar Association President Bill Schifino, the committee met with Schifino and Chief Judge Manuel Menendez, said committee chairman Tom Scarritt. The committee agreed to look deeper into the rules.
The findings were reversed last month after the committee reviewed an appeals court decision that said a judicial candidate would have to make knowingly false statements or make reckless statements in order to have committed a violation.
Both allegations were supposed to be referred to state authorities in Tallahassee for review but the committee decided to re-examine them instead, Scarritt said.