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Lee County Commission
Lee County Commission / news-press.com file photo

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A Circuit Court judge ruled the Lee County Commission violated state law by paying a lobbyist with tourist tax dollars.

The money should have gone toward improving beach and shoreline facilities or promoting the area to tourists, according to Circuit Judge Frederick Hardt’s Tuesday ruling.

“The expenditure of tourist development tax revenues for lobbying services is therefore prohibited and unlawful,” Hardt wrote.

The ruling brings an end to a court battle Lee County commission waged against the Clerk Court for about 18 months.

It started in August 2011 when former Clerk of Court Charlie Green refused to pay Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc. for lobbying services, according to the ruling.

Commissioners contracted the firm to lobby state and federal agencies to “advance the county’s interests,” according to the ruling.

It charged a monthly retainer fee of $10,275, according to the ruling.

Acting County Attorney Andrea Fraser was not immediately available for comment.
The lawyer who argued the commission’s case, Assistant County Attorney John Turner, did not immediately return calls for comment.

Clerk of Court Linda Doggett, who replaced Green, said she doesn’t know whether her office will seek repayment for the money that was spent.

“Figuring out what to do about those payments now is our next challenge,” Doggett said.

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