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Hillsborough commissioner could be sued by colleagues over legal fees

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White could have a new lawsuit on his hands — from his own employer.

Fellow board member Rose Ferlita says that she plans to ask commissioners to sue White in an effort to recoup some of the costs associated with the recent sexual discrimination judgment against him.

The topic is scheduled for discussion at today's County Commission meeting.

A federal jury awarded White's former aide, Alyssa Ogden, $75,000 in damages in August after finding that he fired her for refusing his multiple sexual advances.

Attorneys' fees in the case have pushed the cost of the trial to roughly $500,000. The county is exploring whether an insurance policy might cover some of the costs.

Ogden sued White and Hills­borough County, and the jury found them jointly liable. Commissioners voted last month not to pursue an appeal and to pay the judgment against White, as well as Ogden's legal fees.

Ferlita has repeatedly asked White during past commission meetings if he will help pay some of the costs, but he has declined to answer. She has previously suggested suing him, but didn't get support from other board members.

Now that the case is settled, Ferlita says she will try again.

"My motion is that, now that the taxpayers have settled, I think we need to litigate to see if we can get any money back from him," Ferlita said. "I don't think we should leave any stone unturned."

Commissioners would likely need to hire outside counsel again to pursue a suit against White, as they did for the discrimination case. The county attorney's office would have a conflict since it represents both commissioners and the county as a whole.

White did not return a phone call Tuesday seeking comment.

He has previously indicated to county officials that he hopes to tap the same county insurance policy to cover some of his own lawyers' fees in the case. That scenario could also get discussed during today's commission meeting.

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

Hillsborough commissioner could be sued by colleagues over legal fees 10/06/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 11:24pm]
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