A Florida state attorney determined late last year that Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley broke no laws by telling one county commissioner about a criminal investigation into the activities of another.

A Florida state attorney determined late last year that Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley broke no laws by telling one county commissioner about a criminal investigation into the activities of another.

Glenn Hess, state attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit, released the findings a month after he was ordered by Gov. Rick Scott to investigate Ashley’s conduct.

Scott issued the confidential executive order after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement determined Ashley had told County Commissioner Wayne Harris its agents were investigating County Commissioner James Campbell.

Campbell has since been arrested and charged with official misconduct and perjury.

Agents also learned Harris told Campbell what he’d heard from Ashley, and Campbell “more than likely” used that knowledge to try to amend documents gathered as evidence against him, they reported.

Under Florida Statute 838.21 “it is unlawful for a public servant, with intent to obstruct, impede, or prevent a criminal investigation or a criminal prosecution, to disclose active criminal investigative or intelligence information.”

“Loose lips sink ships,” Hess said in concluding that Ashley had no intention of interfering with the FDLE investigation when he spoke to Harris.

“I do not find sufficient facts to believe that Sheriff Ashley violated 838.21 F.S.,” Hess wrote. “While there is no question that he discussed the existence of an investigation and that he related the general nature of it, his motivation was not to obstruct or impede law enforcement.”

Read the letter from the State Attorney's office.

The report, which was sealed after Hess made his determination last November, was made public Tuesday by Niceville resident Martin White.

White, an adamant Ashley detractor, quoted from the FDLE report at the Okaloosa County Commission meeting and called for someone other than Hess to reopen the criminal investigation.

Hess “chose not to arrest (Undersheriff Don) Adams and Ashley even though the evidence is there,” White told commissioners. “An objective state attorney is going to have to look at this investigation.”

White told commissioners the documents he was presenting were public records and later told a reporter they’d been obtained “legally.”

When asked how he had obtained them, White said, “I can’t answer that.”

Ashley said he did nothing wrong, and the decision to investigate his actions was likely made out of “an abundance of caution.”

He said it was common knowledge his deputies were investigating county commissioners as part of the then-developing scandal involving the Tourist Development Council, and all the commissioners had been interviewed.

“For the integrity of their investigation they had to do what they felt was necessary,” Ashley said. “The conclusion of the investigation was there was nothing to it.”

Ashley called White a “political hack.” White referred to Ashley as a “schmuck of a sheriff.”

“Mr. White and I are never going to agree on anything,” Ashley said. “His motives certainly aren’t pure and they’re political.”

White told county commissioners Tuesday that Hess also investigated an effort by Adams “to interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.”

White alleged Adams had gone to the FDLE on behalf of Ashley to convince the agency not to conduct an interview or arrest Campbell until after he had voted to approve the Sheriff’s Office’s budget.

“He needed Mr. Campbell for that vote,” White said.

Read the sheriff's correspondence with the FDLE.

While the FDLE mentioned in its report that Adams did indeed request Campbell’s interview and arrest be delayed, there is no evidence available that Hess investigated that particular aspect. It is not addressed in Hess’ letter declining prosecution.

Adams told FDLE investigators — and Wednesday repeated to the Daily News — that his request for delay was made to ensure there would be a vote on the Sheriff’s Office budget.

“We had no idea if an arrest was made what it would have done to the County Commission’s ability to have a quorum and its ability to get a budget decided or approved,” he said.

Three of the five commissioners must be present for a meeting to have a quorum.

The FDLE investigators ignored Adams’ request for a delay, and arrested Campbell before the commission meeting in question.

Campbell is accused of failing to report income he received from obtaining sponsorships for the city of Niceville’s Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival.

He has worked as the city’s director of parks and recreation for years and received a 20 percent commission on sponsorships he secured.

Some of those sponsorships came from county entities in which he had oversight as a county commissioner.

Campbell was suspended after his arrest. The Sheriff’s Office's budget was approved by the four remaining commissioners.

The investigation of Campbell was initiated when the Sheriff’s Office uncovered evidence while looking into wrongdoing by former TDC Director Mark Bellinger.

Bellinger purchased a yacht, a Porsche, a mansion and other items with stolen bed tax and funds provided by BP for oil spill recovery efforts.

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin at 850-315-4435 or tmclaughlin@nwfdailynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMnwfdn.