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Norman signs admission of guilt for not reporting $500,000 loan

TAMPA State Sen. Jim Norman has signed a consent order with the Florida Commission on Ethics admitting he violated the law when he did not disclose a $500,000 loan from a political supporter to his wife. Norman, 58, of Tampa, signed the consent order Feb. 9, six days after the ethics commission found probable cause he had broken the law. He admitted to four counts, including not disclosing a gift, and not disclosing his interest in an Arkansas home and two boats. Norman's wife, Mearline, bought the lakefront home in 2006 with $500,000 borrowed from millionaire conservative activist, Ralph Hughes. The order was signed by a prosecutor from the state Attorney General's Office on Monday. The order still must be approved by the full ethics commission March 30.
"I'm glad that he is finally admitting his wrongdoing to the world," said George Niemann, one of several Hillsborough County residents who filed ethics complaints against Norman over the Hughes loan. Norman could have challenged the charges in an administrative law court, but his attorney, Mark Levine of Tallahassee, said he advised him not to. "I said, 'I think it's a case we can win, but it would take eight to 10 months and cost a lot of money,'" Levine said. "I don't think it's worth it." Levine said if the ethics commission approves the agreement, it will then go to the state Senate, which will decide whether further action, such as a fine or public censure, is called for. "Now the question remains, is he fit to serve the citizens of the state of Florida," said Niemann, one of the complainants. "I'm hoping the Legislature gives a good hard look to see if he's fit to serve in the office he currently serves in."

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