Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

As county legal bills go unpaid, former Commissioner Kevin White buys house

TAMPA — Kevin White has claimed he doesn't have the money to help pay for a 2009 sexual harassment verdict while he was a Hillsborough County commissioner.

"You can't get blood from a turnip," he told commissioners last year as they pressed him to contribute.

Yet White found a way to buy a new home in Riverview two months after losing his $90,000-a-year County Commission job in November.

White and his wife purchased the foreclosed home even as they stared at foreclosure on one of their existing houses. Public records show the purchase price was $143,300.

The only mortgage recorded in connection with the purchase is $91,100, records show. That means White came up with the rest — $52,200. No other loans are listed against the property.

"The most likely scenario is that he put down $52,000 on this house," said Michael Wasylik, a Pasco County real estate lawyer not involved with the purchase.

It is possible someone else lent White the balance, and the agreement hasn't been recorded in official records yet. But since the home was purchased in December, that is unlikely, Wasylik said.

White did not return calls seeking comments.

His wife, Jennie, is a nurse and together they own a private security firm. They were already deep in debt, according to public records.

A real estate listing describing their new digs suggests the Whites are enjoying a marked upgrade from their 70-year-old former home in Seminole Heights, which they still own.

The 2,200-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath home in the South Fork subdivision features a three-car garage, backyard fish pond and a master suite with a bathroom that includes double sinks and a garden tub, all overlooking a neighborhood pond. It last sold in December 2006 for $274,500.

White and his wife transferred their homestead exemption to the house from their Seminole Heights residence in February.

Hillsborough County commissioners, and the attorney they've hired to seek money from White for the sexual harassment case, said they were not aware of the purchase.

"I think the county would be surprised, one, to find Mr. White has those kind of resources," said Richard Harrison, a lawyer with the Allen Dell law firm in Tampa who volunteered to seek repayment from White in connection to his sexual harassment lawsuit. "And they would be concerned, two, that he hasn't offered to apply those resources to repay the expenses incurred by the people of Hillsborough County as the result of his misconduct."

Commissioner Mark Sharpe expressed both surprise and concern.

"The first priority ought to be the taxpayers, whether you're in office or out of office," he said.

White lost his bid for re-election in November, finishing last in the three-person Democratic primary won by former state Sen. Les Miller. The defeat came a year after a federal jury found that White sexually discriminated against a former aide by firing her for refusing his repeated advances.

The county was found jointly liable by the jury. Attorneys hired by the county amassed more than $200,000 in bills. The jury awarded the aide, Alyssa Ogden, $75,000, and the county was forced to pay her attorney more than $200,000.

The county's insurance covered some of the costs but had a $350,000 deductible. White and the insurer are locked in litigation, with the former commissioner saying the policy should have covered his legal bills, which totaled about $157,000.

"I don't have any knowledge about either the home or Mr. White's personal finances," said Michael Laurato, the attorney White hired to represent him in the billing tussle. "As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't owe anyone any money anyway. He's owed money."

The county has joined the lawsuit between its insurer and White, contending he should cover some portion of the deductible. White's original trial attorney, Steven Wenzel, also has joined the suit. He wants any reimbursement White receives for legal expenses to go directly to his law firm.

Wenzel said he was unaware of the Whites' home purchase but declined further comment. Gale Porter, an attorney he has hired, said White still owes his trial attorneys $140,000.

That's not White's only financial trouble. Financial disclosure reports he filed while in office showed that the debt on the Seminole Heights house exceeded its county-appraised value.

Records show that in February, lenders served a foreclosure notice on a Tampa Heights investment home the Whites own through a company, CJW Ventures.

"It's obviously concerning to me," County Commission Chairman Al Higginbotham said of White's latest home purchase. "I will bring it to the attention of the county attorney to see what the county can do to protect its outstanding bills."

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com. John Martin can be reached (813) 226-3372 or jmartin@sptimes.com.

As county legal bills go unpaid, former Commissioner Kevin White buys house 03/30/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 11:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]