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Bush Fires Athletic Commission Head

March 11, 1999

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ The head of the state’s athletic commission was fired Wednesday for taking money from Don King and then trying to influence the rest of the regulating board to help the boxing promoter.

Gov. Jeb Bush ordered Morris ``Mike″ Scionti removed as executive secretary of the athletic commission after the state’s inspector general determined there was a conflict of interest.

Scionti ``committed improper and or unethical acts constituting malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty and insubordination,″ Bush said in an executive order firing the official.

Bush suspended another commissioner, Alvin Goodman, who the inspector general discovered worked as a lawyer for people who were licensed by the commission and solicited political contributions from licensees.

Scionti did not immediately return a call to his home, and a message left at Goodman’s office after business hours was not immediately returned. His home telephone number is not listed.

Bush appointed the assistant executive secretary, Shelley Bradshaw, to serve as interim executive secretary until the commission meets March 18.

The inspector general found that Scionti asked King in June 1997 for a donation to his foundation, known as the Florida State Boxing Foundation.

Commissioner Jack Guggino said in a sworn statement to the inspector general’s investigators that Scionti approached King and other promoters asking for help with the foundation.

``He said, ’Look, can you help us with this foundation for the purpose of helping boxers get through life, giving them an education, because boxing isn’t everything,‴ the inspector general’s report quoted Guggino as saying.

King said through a spokesman Wednesday that Scionti was wrongly targeted.

``He feels it is wrong that Mike Scionti was fired for something that was beyond his control,″ said King spokesman Greg Fritz. ``He was trying to do something right for boxing in establishing the foundation.″

After the donation, Scionti advocated to the commission that it reverse its policy of excluding longterm contracts between promoters and fighters, the report said.

The contracts tie fighters to promoters for several fights. Critics argue they exploit young boxers by tethering their earnings to one promoter. Supporters, such as King, contend promoters need to earn back the money they invest in young boxers.

At the time, King was seeking a change in the commission’s rules to allow for the contracts.

That might have helped King, who was being sued over similar contracts he had with boxers Julio Cesar Chavez and Mike Tyson., who were trying to get out of the agreements.

Bill Woodyard, general counsel for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees the commission, said he told Scionti of the report’s findings Friday and asked him if he wanted to resign.

Scionti refused. The governor’s office also asked for Scionti’s resignation before firing him.

The five-member athletic commission is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Members serve four-year terms. The commission’s main job is to regulate professional boxing and kickboxing in Florida.

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