Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Plant City Commissioner calls for state investigation to clear his name

Accused of interfering with the inquiry that led to the firing of his community's police chief, Plant City Commissioner William "Billy" Keel has called for an independent investigation that he hopes will clear him of wrongdoing.

On Friday, in a letter to City Manager Greg Horwedel, Keel wrote: "…this whole thing puts a cloud over the city, and puts my fellow commissioners in an untenable position to be pressed to take investigative action of some kind against a fellow commissioner."

He requested that the commission ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the Florida Commission on Ethics to review his actions. The issue has since been added to Monday's City Commission agenda.

Police Chief Steven Singletary, a 45-year-old father of three, was fired last month after he was caught cheating on his wife during sick days or when he reported being at work. Keel, a close friend, was accused of discouraging the chief's lover, Melissa Hardwick, 35, from cooperating with the misconduct inquiry.

On Jan. 19, two days after the city suspended Singletary, Keel texted one of the woman's friends, Hardwick said. She later told investigators Keel wanted her to keep quiet about the affair.

Keel refused to answer questions when Singletary was fired the next week, instead releasing a statement that said, in part, it was "time for the city to move forward."

At the time, Horwedel, who reports to Keel, said he had no plans to investigate the allegations against the commissioner.

Now, more than a week later, Keel has asked for the deeper examination.

"I have spent my entire adult life working for the betterment of this community. I have always done so with honor, pride and integrity," Keel wrote. "I will not have that tarnished by these allegations, and I look forward to a day where my name is completely and unequivocally cleared."

Times files were used in this report.

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