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Ethics commission pursues case against ex-Hillsborough commissioner Kevin White

The fallout from Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White's 2009 sexual harassment lawsuit continues.

A Dover activist who filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics over the matter said he has been told by a representative of the panel that it has found probable cause that White misused his public position by seeking sexual favors from a former aide.

"I'm glad for the outcome," said George Niemann, who filed the complaint. "What I'm hoping is that this may be a final step to end Kevin White's public career because it's obvious the public has lost trust in him."

Niemann's case is one of at least three complaints with the ethics commission concerning White. The other two involve at least one subsequent vote by White during the County Commission's debate about whether to sue him to recoup legal expenses amassed during the harassment case. White participated in an initial vote, even though he stood to be affected financially by the outcome, but later moved for a do-over and abstained.

The commission does not disclose complaints until it determines if there is probable cause, but the three people who filed them said they were being heard last week. Public announcements are expected today.

A federal civil jury found in 2009 that White sexually discriminated against former aide Alyssa Ogden by firing her for refusing what she described as multiple sexual advances. The county was found jointly liable for failing to have a process where she could seek recourse.

The jury awarded $75,000 in damages to Ogden and the county had to pay more than $200,000 for her legal bills. The county racked up another roughly $200,000 for its own legal expenses.

A county insurance policy picked up a small portion, but had a $350,000 deductible.

White was trounced during the Democratic primary last year when he sought re-election.

The county continues to pursue legal action against White to recoup some of the costs not covered by insurance. White, meanwhile, is seeking to have the county's insurer pay his legal expenses, which were about $157,000.

After a probable cause finding, the advocate, who serves like a prosecutor in ethics cases, typically enters talks with the accused to see if a settlement can be reached, said Julie Costas, assistant general counsel for commission. That could involve agreeing to pay a fine.

Barring a resolution, White could take his case to an administrative law judge. The judge would make a recommendation that the ethics commission could accept, reject or modify.

Ethics commission pursues case against ex-Hillsborough commissioner Kevin White 05/17/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 11:09pm]
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