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Inside Politics

Gov. reinstates man despite sex allegations

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Gov. Jeb Bush is reinstating a county commissioner acquitted of fraud charges, despite what he called "absolutely deplorable" alleged sexual behavior by the man.

Leon County Commissioner Rudy Maloy was found not guilty last week of a misdemeanor charge of double-dipping on travel expenses.

"I have reinstated Mr. Maloy only with great reluctance," the governor said in a letter to the Board of County Commissioners.

Maloy remains under a state ethics investigation on allegations he solicited sexual favors from female staffers and used his position to engage in sex with female employees.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) found the sex allegations did not rise to the level of criminal charges and passed its findings to an ethics panel. If found guilty, Maloy could be removed from office.

Bush went out of his way to criticize Maloy while giving him his job back.

"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement ... found Mr. Maloy subjected female employees to unwanted touching; appeared to hire and fire employees on the basis of their willingness to engage in sexual relationships with him; and frequently had sex in state offices, sometimes during business hours," Bush said in his statement to commissioners.

"Mr. Maloy's behavior was absolutely deplorable, particularly for an elected constitutional officer charged with a duty of public service."

According to the state prosecutor working on the ethics case, four women filed sex charges against Maloy.

"Just based on the law, and based on the practices that we've established, I felt compelled to reinstate him," Bush said. "I don't do this with any joy in my heart. ... The power of an elected official should not be used to create a bad working environment or an abusive working environment and that occurred. "

Bush spokeswoman Jill Brattina said it "would be precedent-setting and it wouldn't be fair" to suspend Maloy pending the outcome of the investigation into the sex allegations after he already was suspended on the "more important" misdemeanor criminal charges.

"It would be up to the voters now to decide," she said.

However, it could be up to the governor, to whom the Florida Ethics Commission will eventually make a recommendation. If it finds Maloy guilty of sexual misbehavior in office, the penalties include a maximum $20,000 fine and removal from office.

Tallahassee attorney Dexter Douglas, the former chief counsel to late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, said he found Bush's decision a bit odd.

"It's highly unusual for a governor to make a statement like that and not remove him from office," Douglas said, adding he could not recall a similar case.

Maloy's attorney, Bruce Minnick, criticized Bush's statements and argued his client could not be suspended on the sex charges. "Nothing the governor said has been proven in any court on the planet. ... The governor is basing his opinions on an FDLE report that Mr. Maloy did not get to participate in," Minnick said.

He said the county commission's insurance company agreed to a multimillion dollar confidential settlement with three of the alleged sex victims who were threatening to sue Maloy.

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