Dingfelder Apologizes

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Just got handed more than 600 pages of e-mails that Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder retrieved from his law office computer, about such exciting city business as landscape and irrigation, shootings and zoning matters. It is part of Dingfelder's penance for e-mailing a campaign solicitation to a person who had just written to him to complain about a city marina (as well as the legal response to the Tampa Tribune's public records request).

In a note atop the massive pile of copies, Dingfelder said he had called the constitutent, attorney J. Scott Taylor, and apologized again. He said he is creating three separate e-mail accounts at his work at the Scarritt law firm to keep work, campaign and city business separate. "I have decided that even though I am juggling my law practice, my position on Council, my family responsibilities and my re-election campaign, I still need to slow down enough to ensure that I continue to do a good job with each of these. I appreciate the faith that the electorate, my family and supporters have placed in me and I would do nothing intentionally to let them down."

The damage control comes after two stories (one of which ran on 1A) excoriated Dingfelder's action in soliciting campaign support from Taylor. Dingfelder's bewildered and disorganized reaction in the two accounts didn't help his cause, either.

Kudos to the Trib for pursuing the public records request. But why wasn't the Tribune as vigilant on behalf of its readers when the Times wrote about Dingfelder's opponent, Julie Brown, receiving $20,000 in bundled campaign contributions from employees, friends and family of Jason Kuhn, owner of Kuhn Volkswagen? That story has yet to the see the light of day in the Tampa daily.

It is also curious that while Dingfelder's lapse deals with ethics (neither story said his actions were illegal), both papers gave much less prominence to same-day stories about candidates (including Shawn Harrison, Dingfelder, Brown and Gwen Miller) soliciting campaign contributions by distributing camapign fundraiser invitations on public property, which could violate Florida law. No doubt, the e-mail story is sexier.

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