Monday, November 20, 2017
Politics

After election loss, Hillsborough property appraiser gave successor the brush-off

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TAMPA — Bob Henriquez had hoped to spend some time talking with Rob Turner before taking over his job as Hillsborough County property appraiser — maybe even get a tour.

But in the two months since being elected, Henriquez said he wasn't able to set foot in the office. He said he was told by Turner's top staff that his soon-to-be predecessor wasn't interested.

"I was told through Warren Weathers and others that that wasn't what Mr. Turner wanted to do," Henriquez said, referring to Turner's chief deputy. "He was the boss until his term ran out."

Henriquez said he decided not to push the issue. He requested and received resumes of roughly a dozen management-level employees, their job duties and an organizational chart. He was also able to sit down with those employees individually — but outside County Center at the Tampa Law Library.

"I imagine that was with the blessing of the boss," Henriquez said.

Henriquez's first visit to his new workplace came Tuesday, before a swearing-in ceremony at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in the morning. The investiture was followed by his first formal staff meeting, something he described as "an awesome experience," and one that was likely "cathartic" for the office he has inherited.

He said later that he understood Turner got a similar non-welcome from predecessor Ron Alderman after a bruising campaign fight, which Weathers confirmed.

"We did things just like that," Weathers said. "Everyone was cooperative and cordial. We just didn't get into the office until after he took the oath."

Turner did not return a call seeking comment.

A cloud has hung over the property appraiser's office for seven months, since Turner admitted to the Tampa Bay Times that he had sent multiple pornographic emails to his human resources director. Turner acknowledged that he dated the woman, Carolyn Filippone, while she worked for him and then fired her as the Times was preparing its story.

The revelations drew last-minute challenges to Turner's bid for a fifth term in office after 16 years on the job, from Henriquez, a Democrat, and by former Republican state Sen. Ronda Storms. Storms made Turner's admission the focus of her campaign, and easily defeated him in the Republican primary.

Henriquez, a 48-year-old former state legislator who had no Democratic primary opposition, was able to let Storms do much of the heavy hitting. His campaign touched lightly on the porn scandal, with Henriquez generally describing it as "unfortunate" but declining to castigate the deeply wounded incumbent directly.

Turner stopped taking spoken interview requests after the initial stories, accepting questions only in writing for a time before eventually declining to respond at all after his defeat.

Henriquez said he would have liked the chance to pick Turner's brain, look over the office and meet with staff to allay concerns about the potential for a shakeup. He said Tuesday he doesn't anticipate wholesale change, but rather a reinvigoration of the office.

And despite the brushoff, Henriquez was complimentary of Turner during his investiture remarks. "I honor the service of Mr. Turner," he told a crowd of nearly 100 friends, family members and elected officials. "It has been a very well-run office for many, many years."

Afterward, he expressed empathy for Turner and declined to criticize him for failing to extend a welcome. He said he had run into Turner at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' home finale and the two had a cordial conversation. "Maybe there will be some opportunities to talk in the future," Henriquez said. "Given the personal nature of how this came about . . . obviously this was very difficult for him and his family."

Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

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