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Plea deal: Blair quits job, campaign

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After reaching a plea agreement with the State Attorney’s Office, former Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair has dropped out of the race for sheriff in this year’s election and, since he was still sheriff despite being suspended, has resigned from the Sheriff’s Office.
Blair was indicted for perjury and official misconduct on May 20 and was immediately suspended by Gov. Rick Scott. Emery Gainey was appointed to serve out the remainder of Blair’s term, which expires after this year’s election.
Blair’s name will still appear on the Republican primary ballot on Aug. 30, along with Billy Woods and Kerry Crawford. Former Sheriff Ed Dean and Dennis McFatten are on the primary ballot on the Democratic side. Many ballots have already been mailed.
The plea deal is a deferred prosecution agreement and says that Blair would drop out of the election process if State Attorney Brad King would agree not to pursue the charges against Blair.
Gainey issued the following statement. He was not available for further comment because he was out of town in Tallahassee.
“Today the former sheriff made the best decision forthe citizens of Marion County and the employees of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office: to resign from the Office of the Sheriff and to withdraw from the upcoming sheriff’s election.
“The past three and a half years have been very difficult for many in this community and for most of the employees at the Sheriff’s Office. Today, we come to a time when the healing that my staff and I started on May 20th may continue unimpeded by the distraction of the former sheriff’s involvement in the upcoming August primary.
“Furthermore, the investigation into the Kiosk program has revealed very significant and disturbing information about the procurement process of this product, including the use of public monies and receipt of payment by a former senior staff member from a vendor involved in this venture. I purposefully chose to remain silent when I ordered the removal of these kiosks from various businesses and governmental locations on July 15th to allow sufficient time for the investigation to be concluded. With the release of the findings today, it should be obvious why I took such immediate action on behalf of our business partners and this agency.
“Finally, I support the plea agreement and the decisions of State Attorney Brad King in this case which allow this community to put this painful episode behind us and move forward both as an agency and community. I want to thank the hard working men and women of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for their professionalism during this time of transition and for their continued support as morale continues to rebound throughout the agency and confidence in their law enforcement agency continues to be restored throughout the county.”