Ethics Commission finds Marion County sheriff violated law



MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair will end up paying the price after the state's ethic commission decided he violated the law.

This comes eight months after a grand jury failed to indict Blair for the same claims, saying it was impossible to determine if a crime had been committed.

An anonymous tip led the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into how Blair reported a loan to his campaign during the 2012 run for sheriff. 

A grand jury did not indict, but the state ethics commission did find probable cause that Blair filed an incomplete financial disclosure form.

Channel 9's Berndt Petersen learned the sheriff can fight the findings before an administrative law judge, or he can negotiate a settlement and pay a fine.

The Sheriff's Office said he will go for a settlement.

Since the day Blair took office one year ago, his supporters have stuck by him.

"I don't think that he did anything wrong," said Marion County resident John Gilliam.

Gilliam said the investigation into Blair's campaign spending was a waste of taxpayer money.

"I think it's just politically motivated," he said.

"The bottom line is, if they found he didn't fill out the paperwork correctly, didn't report it correctly, then he understands that," said Capt. James Pogue, of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Voter Michael Diprimo said the sheriff is doing a good job but believes any politician should know the campaign finance laws.

"I think they should know it in detail," he said. "If they knowingly do something wrong, that's when they should be prosecuted.  But I mean, if you're running for office, you should know things in detail."

But a sheriff's spokesman said Blair spent 36 years wearing a badge, not running for office.

"It's not like Chris Blair was a political machine here that had been in the works for years and years," said Pogue. "He's been a policeman."

Blair was in Tallahassee Thursday and not available for comment.