Bari, October 31 - Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola was cleared of a charge of abuse of office by a court in this southern Italian city on Wednesday. Prosecutors had requested a 20-month prison sentence for Vendola for the allegedly unlawfully appointment of a local chief of surgeons, Paolo Sardelli, at Bari's San Paolo hospital in 2010. "I'm happy," a tearful Vendola, the leader of the leftwing Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party, told ANSA after the ruling was announced. "I'm a good person and (being involved in this probe) was a bitter pill for me to swallow". The openly gay Vendola is running in the primaries to choose the centre-left coalition's candidate to be premier at next year's national elections, along with Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the main centre-left Democratic Party (PD). The PD's 37-year-old mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, is also running in the primaries. Vendola had said he would quit politics if he were convicted. Lea Cosentino, the former head of the health board in Bari whom Vendola fired in 2010 after she was placed under house arrest during a graft investigation, was also acquitted of abuse of office. Vendola had said the case against him was based solely on testimony from Cosentino. "She is accusing me due to her strong resentment," he said.