"As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't owe anyone any money anyway. He's owed money."
— Michael Laurato, attorney for disgraced former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White, who left taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars following a sexual harassment case he lost while in office, and who recently bought a nice house.
If this were the latest in a series about how many ways one politician can thumb his nose at the people who elected him, it might be titled: The Curious Case of the Ousted Commissioner's New House and Where It Came From.
And maybe a subtitle: Taxi, Anyone?
Where to start with Kevin White? You might be tempted to go with how he once bought himself slick suits using campaign money and tried to disguise it as "consulting" costs, but me, I'd go right to the trial.
Who could forget his young assistant on the witness stand, describing how the married commissioner pursued her affections with the doggedness of a bounty hunter, and then fired her when she would not play nice?
After the resounding verdict against White and the county, Commissioner Harass-and-Dash bolted for the door, leaving the legal tab on the table and calling over his shoulder that he had not a dime to contribute. Can't get blood out of a turnip, he said.
So it looked like a cut-your-losses ending for voters, who responded accordingly and made him Commissioner No More.
But as they say in the cheesy late-night TV commercials — Wait, there's more.
Despite his monetary woes, turns out White and his wife managed to upgrade from their 70-year-old home in the city to a lovely four-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot, $143,300 number in the 'burbs, complete with three-car garage and fish pond.
Now normally, it would be none of our business what kind of house a guy buys, or even how he buys it. But this is like your ne'er-do-well brother leaving you a pile of his unpaid bills — he's broke, okay? — as he heads out on a Vegas vacation. Hey, maybe he'll bring you back a nice snow globe!
Did I mention there's more? As the Times' Bill Varian and John Martin reported this week, White's investment property faces foreclosure, lawyers are after him for legal fees, and he's lost that $90,000 commission gig.
How's a guy like that get a $91,100 mortgage for a new house?
As it turns out, through someone named Michael J. Moses, who owns taxi, van and limo services regulated by a board on which White served for seven years, four as its chairman. Hillsborough's Public Transportation Commission decides who gets permits to run hired cars.
And more: For the record, people who spend their days elbow-deep in the intricacies of mortgages call this one "very unusual" — no interest rate, no payment schedule.
Curiouser and curiouser, a disgraced former pol who cannot pay his bills manages the white picket fence anyway.
So maybe on this we can agree: We do owe him something. We owe a thorough investigation of how that house happened and whether or not it had anything to do with his duties as an elected official. Him being a turnip and all, we don't expect much in return — just maybe some answers.