Hillsborough Commissioners vote to end appeal in Kevin White case

09/16/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Hillsborough County Commissioners today decided to try to cut their losses in the in the Kevin White sexual harassment case, by voting not to appeal the ruling that they owe the victim and her attorney in the case about $275,000.

The Board also voted to have their attorneys work with Commissioner White’s about seeing if they might possibly receive financial compensation from him. If not, they discussed suing him.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita brought up the issue of pursuing litigation against White, since it was determined that even if the County tried to pay off all the costs the court ruled they must pay in the case, since they are jointly tied with White in the case, if White appeals on his own, the County would still be liable.

For the 3rd straight time they’ve discussed the issue, Ferlita asked White if he would be able to contribute anything financially for the County’s financial losses.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Lazzara said that the County must accept its responsibility for its role in the case.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Judge Lazzara said testimony during last month's trial showed that the county offers no meaningful way for employees who are not civil service workers to challenge a wrongful firing.

Commissioner Ken Hagen said that he agreed and disagreed with Judge Lazzara’s writings. The Board members struggled for much of their 90 minute discussion in the issue.

But nobody has been more definitive in her opinion that the Board should cut their losses during these discussions than Commissioner Rose Ferlita, who again led the charge that the Board needed to move on and make the best of a rotten situation for them, and the county taxpayers, for White’s transgression.

But after being mostly silent during the previous public discussions on his case, Commissioner White today spoke out prominently. He said the reason the County was in its predicament was not because of his actions, but because the County had failed in its responsibilities, quoting Judge Lazzara and one of the jurors. White also criticized Judge Lazzara for actions that he said the Judge allowed in the courtroom.

Later, County Attorney Renee Lee discussed the board’s best options if they pay the settlement currently owned – the $75 thousand to White’s former aide who accused him of sexual harassment, Alyssa Ogden, and at least $150,000 for her attorney, Ron Fraley.

Ultimately, the board voted on 6-0 motions that they would drop their appeal and pay the entire amount currently owned, by asking Ogden’s attorney for a settlement. They then voted to have their attorneys work with Commissioner White’s attorneys about possibly having him commit to helping defray the County’s obligations. If not, they could end up suing him.

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