Friday, January 19, 2018
Politics

Like we need another sordid sex scandal?

Maybe like me you could live happily ever after without another headline about allegations of a politician's tawdry affair, his public restroom adventures, or his penchant for porn and related creative uses of his cellphone.

But here we go again, looking at a man in a position of public trust and how he tangled up his personal messiness with the office we elected him to.

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner was one of the good guys. A bank executive and political newcomer, he rode in and grabbed the job from an incumbent who was, among other things, shown on TV bar-hopping during business hours. Turner got things cleaned up and set right. We The People elected him no less than four times, and it looked like we were about to make it a fifth. Now, this.

Turner recently confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times' Bill Varian that yes, he repeatedly sent pornography to his human resources director, a woman he had dated. (Isn't human resources where you go when someone sends you stuff like that? But anyway.)

In a since-dismissed complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Carolyn Filippone says Turner repeatedly emailed her graphic sexual images and links to porn videos and websites in an attempt to restart their relationship.

Turner, who calls the whole thing a "personal matter for which I am embarrassed and am very sorry," says the exchange was mutual and didn't happen on office time. He denies Filippone was hustled out of the downtown office and out to Brandon as a sort of banishment.

And here's a detail you just don't want to hear about someone you elected to office, or pretty much anyone else: He also denies sending her a picture of his private parts.

But forget the whole he-said she-said tangle here.

He. Was. Her. Boss.

He. Sent. Her. Porn.

Judgment, anyone?

Common sense?

Not that she works for him anymore. In a curious bit of timing, Filippone found herself fired Monday after the Times had interviewed Turner. He says she was let go because of false allegations in her complaint, not because of a coming story sure to embarrass him. But the complaint was dismissed weeks ago. "We were evaluating," Turner said Tuesday.

He also made a point of saying his office's current nepotism policy against bosses and employees in relationships wasn't in place back when he and Filippone dated. He called it "a personal mistake, but it was not a violation of the current policy at the time."

And that makes it okay?

"This is a perfect example of why it isn't okay," he said.

It's also why it's disappointing.

Turner calls what happened "private events." Except he is, one more time, a public figure in a public office in possession of the public trust interacting with a public employee. He's the boss, even if she did not report directly to him.

And so we could see another trial filled with salacious detail a la former County Commissioner Kevin White when he was accused of pursuing a young employee. And we can expect political fallout that could include a heavy-hitter on the ballot even from Turner's own Republican Party, because who needs another scandal?

And we already have another reason for voters to say: See? Same old same old.

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