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Former Hillsborough officials Bean, Lee entitled to attorney fees; amount still unclear

TAMPA — There's no question that Hillsborough County's former administrator and former attorney should be paid back for legal fees they amassed defending themselves from a criminal investigation.

The question is how much they deserve to get, said the interim county attorney, summarizing remarks of hearing officer Peter Grilli during a meeting held Tuesday to start that process.

"He did indicate that they were entitled to some fees, but he had to determine the amount, and he would make a decision within a couple of weeks," said interim County Attorney Don Odom, who had one of his staff lawyers at the meeting.

Commissioners have previously indicated they expect to have to pay the legal bills of both former County Administrator Pat Bean and former County Attorney Renee Lee. But they had asked that an outside legal expert be consulted to determine whether the fees are reasonable.

Bean is seeking about $51,000. Lee is seeking just more than $81,000.

Bean was fired in June 2010 by commissioners, who ultimately found she improperly gave herself and Lee 1 percent pay raises three years earlier that Lee said were allowable. Lee's contract was terminated a year later for what commissioners characterized as a series of poor judgment calls, including having lunch with former Commissioner Kevin White, whom the county is suing.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated both over the raises and allegations that they had improperly accessed e-mails of the auditor who unearthed them. The 15-month investigation concluded it could not be proved that either had done anything criminal, while finding both had acted with poor judgment.

Commissioners agreed initially to pay Bean $191,737 in unused sick and vacation pay when they fired her, but not the full year of pay and benefits her contract stipulated if she was fired for a reason short of committing an illegal act. She asked for the rest when the FDLE concluded its investigation, which the board denied her, so she's suing the county for the $263,496 balance, plus interest.

When she was forced out in June, Lee agreed to accept a payout of half of her severance guarantee, which was just more than $300,000.

The legal fees are separate from those payouts.

Former Hillsborough officials Bean, Lee entitled to attorney fees; amount still unclear 09/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 7:41am]
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