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Investigation of Plant City commissioner finds no criminal wrongdoing

TAMPA — A state investigation into assertions that Plant City Commissioner Billy Keel interfered with a local inquiry culminating in the police chief's ouster has found no criminal wrongdoing, authorities said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a letter to Plant City officials that it would take no further action in the investigation, which began about six months ago.

"Based upon a review of the facts and circumstances in this matter, coupled with sworn testimony and documents obtained during this investigation, the FDLE found no viable evidence to establish a criminal predicate," reads a one-page letter received Tuesday by Plant City officials.

The FDLE in early June said results of the investigation were being handed over to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office — rather than Hillsborough's, because of any possible conflicts — for final determination on filing charges. On Wednesday that office said it had yet to receive the report. Nor did the FDLE make the full report publicly available Wednesday.

The investigation dates to January, when Plant City police Chief Steve Singletary was fired after local officials determined he had carried on an extramarital affair while on city time and sick leave. Singletary did not deny the affair, but told city officials it was a private matter that did not interfere with his work.

The FDLE also cleared him of criminal wrongdoing this week. Confident he would not be charged, Singletary said in a statement Wednesday that the announcement was "well received by our family."

He wrote that his family and work record have endured heavy scrutiny over the last several months and he was considering legal action because of it but declined further comment.

Courtney Singletary, 40, maintained Wednesday that her husband never changed any time records or did anything inappropriate on the public clock.

"What he did was immoral," she said. "It was not illegal. There was nothing to find … or the FDLE would not have come out with the findings that they came out with."

A mother of three who teaches reading at Durant High School, Courtney Singletary said her husband has since started working in management for a utilities company based in Plant City.

She said the couple has sought therapy from a Christian psychologist and does not intend to move away from Plant City.

Local investigators found that the then-chief had parked his city car near a business partly run by Keel several times last year while he was pursuing the affair.

Melissa Hardwick, the woman having the affair with Singletary, said Keel knew about it and tried to persuade the chief to end it.

Later, Hardwick swore under oath that Keel attempted through a friend's text message to persuade her to say nothing if questioned about the relationship.

Keel supported a vote earlier this year by his commission colleagues to refer the matter to the FDLE and the Florida Commission on Ethics.

"Several months ago, I asked for an outside and unbiased investigation into some allegations that were made against me," Keel wrote in a statement issued Wednesday. "I did so to clear my name, and to give the citizens of this community confidence in me as their elected official. That investigation concluded yesterday, with the results that I have known all along. The FDLE, after a very thorough investigation, found no evidence of wrongdoing and cleared me. I am glad to have this matter closed, and I sincerely hope to return the focus to getting on with the business of the City of Plant City."

The ethics commission said Wednesday it could not confirm or deny it had such a case.

Contact Zack Peterson at zpeterson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @zackpeterson918.

Investigation of Plant City commissioner finds no criminal wrongdoing 07/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 11:05pm]
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