Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Appeals court upholds ethics finding against Renee Lee

Renee Lee listens to proceedings June 2, 2011, as she is fired as county attorney the Hillsborough County Commission.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2011)

Renee Lee listens to proceedings June 2, 2011, as she is fired as county attorney the Hillsborough County Commission.

TAMPA — The ethics case against former Hillsborough County Attorney Renee Lee is coming to a close.

An appellate court has upheld a finding by the Florida Commission on Ethics that Lee misused her public office by issuing a legal opinion that led to her and former County Administrator Pat Bean receiving a 1 percent pay raise in 2007.

The decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeal was issued without comment May 24, with each member of the three-judge panel concurring.

Lee did not return a phone call seeking comment. But her attorney in the matter said the ruling will likely end Lee's effort to have the ethics decision overturned.

"Obviously we're very disappointed that the court ruled the way it did," said Tallahassee lawyer Mark Herron.

Lee has about two weeks from the date of the ruling to seek a rehearing. But Herron said he doesn't anticipate it.

The ethics commission voted 6-1 last September to reprimand Lee and fine her $5,000, following the recommendation of an administrative law judge who found Lee put her own interests above the public's. Once the time for seeking a rehearing passes, that finding will head to Gov. Rick Scott for final disposition.

Former county performance auditor Jim Barnes revealed the secret pay raises awarded by Bean's office several months after they took place. Bean had initially awarded similar raises to department directors who had recommended ways to trim their office budgets that year.

Lee ultimately provided a legal opinion saying that she and Bean also were eligible for the raises since they had cut their own office budgets, even though, as appointed officials, their salaries were set by the county's seven elected commissioners. Lee said the raises were basically like benefits awarded to other employees and, under their contracts, she and Bean were eligible. Commissioners were in the dark.

The raises — Lee's was about $1,700 — were ultimately cited by commissioners as justification to terminate the contracts of both Bean and Lee. Lee negotiated the terms of her exit in June 2011.

Bean faced a similar ethics complaint, but a judge found that while she may have exercised poor judgment, she did the proper thing by seeking Lee's opinion.

Appeals court upholds ethics finding against Renee Lee 06/03/13 [Last modified: Monday, June 3, 2013 11:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Vending machines to give 100,000 free books to Florida kids

    Education

    FORT LAUDERDALE — Children in South Florida will soon be able to get free books from vending machines.

  2. Afraid of sharks in Florida? Flu, asteroids pose far greater risk

    Wildlife

    BOSTON — You might want a bigger boat, but you probably don't need better odds.

    FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2012 file photo, Captain Brett McBride places his hand on the snout of a great white shark while scientists collect blood, tissue samples and attach tracking devices on the research vessel Ocearch off the coast of Chatham, Mass. Before release, the nearly 15-foot, 2,292-pound shark was named Genie for famed shark researcher Eugenie Clark. Great white sharks are making their annual return to Cape Cod, rattling some boaters and beachgoers. Yet the chances of an attack resulting in serious injury or death are infinitesimally small. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File) BX302
  3. For starters: Rays lineup vs Orioles

    Blogs

     

  4. Pepin daughters to take on Mount Kilimanjaro

    Human Interest

    About seven years ago, Tom Pepin and his four daughters stood at 12,000 feet, overlooking the Colorado Rockies during an outward bound survival training mission.

    From left, Christina Pepin, Lauren Pepin (Tom’s Wife), Cassie Pepin, Allie Pepin, Bella Pepin and Tom Pepin take a break during an outward bound survival training mission in Colorado.
  5. Music, memories, friendships lend energy to 'Senior Prom'

    Aging

    RIVERVIEW — Mesmerizing music mixed with the mingling of friends to energize and engage a congregation of old souls Thursday (June 22).

    Louise Goff of Brandon does line dances during the annual Senior Prom hosted by Hillsborough County Aging Services at the Regent in Brandon.