TAMPA — Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White, imprisoned for accepting bribes, is hoping to profit from his unrelated 2009 sexual discrimination trial.
White claims in a lawsuit filed this week that insurers for the county acted in bad faith by refusing to pay his legal expenses from the case, in which a jury said he sexually discriminated against a former aide.
His attorney said White will seek damages large enough to show State National Insurance Co., of Fort Worth, Texas, that it can't deny people or governments coverage for which they have paid. White will seek damages in the "high seven figures or low eight figures," said attorney Michael Laurato.
Additionally, Laurato said he will seek to recoup on behalf of the county $75,000 in damages awarded to former aide Alyssa Ogden that the insurer refused to cover.
"The insurance company knew it should have paid," Laurato said. "This suit is about what price the insurance company will have to pay for attempting and getting caught in trying to cheat the taxpayers for coverage they have bought."
An attempt to reach a representative of State National was unsuccessful Tuesday.
White is serving a three-year prison sentence following his conviction a year ago on seven charges, including wire fraud, bribery and lying to the FBI. He was caught in a sting operation accepting $6,000 in bribes from an undercover agent posing as a businessman seeking White's help with the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.
White also was in federal court two years earlier facing a civil lawsuit from Ogden, who said she was fired as White's aide for refusing his sexual advances. The jury sided with Ogden.
Voters sent him packing in November 2010 and seven months later federal authorities charged him in the bribery scheme.
All told, the sexual discrimination case cost the county $490,989, including damages to Ogden, her attorney's fees, and to hire outside lawyers for the case. The county was a co-defendent in the suit.
The county had a general liability insurance policy for which it paid $479,000 a year. But the policy had a $350,000 deductible for each claim.
State National said the jury award to Ogden didn't qualify for reimbursement under provisions of the policy. After the deductible, it repaid the county $65,989.
State National also rejected a claim for reimbursement of $167,000 in legal expenses from lawyers White hired for the case, saying he was disqualified because the policy didn't cover costs stemming from a "willful violation of any statute."
White challenged that interpretation in court, saying in effect that this is the reason a government purchases liability insurance. He won, and the insurance company paid his lawyers.
Laurato says those working for State National knew they could not deny White insurance coverage but did anyway. The lawyer said that if White succeeds in his latest litigation, he could be in a position to consider reimbursing the county at least some of its expenses from the trial.