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Hillsborough's cost for White case could approach $500,000

TAMPA — The attorney for the woman who successfully sued Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin White for sexual discrimination has submitted his bill to the county: $216,634.

If he is successful in collecting that amount, it would push the county's total potential cost of the case to nearly a half-million dollars.

Ron Fraley gave a summary of how much it cost him to represent White's former aide, Alyssa Ogden, to the county Wednesday morning. Most of it, $195,412.50, represents 521 hours he spent on the case in the past nearly two years, billed at $375 an hour.

There's nearly $10,000 more in costs, plus expert fees paid to Dr. Walter Afield, a psychiatrist who testified on behalf of Ogden during last week's trial. The letter sent to other lawyers in the case said he can document all of the charges.

Fraley declined to comment on his bill, saying it would be inappropriate to discuss it while he and the county negotiate what is owed.

County Attorney Renee Lee likewise was reluctant to discuss it, other than to say the details likely will be discussed before a magistrate judge.

"We'll go through the process and certainly look at it with a close and critical eye," Lee said.

The county and Fraley have two weeks to negotiate over legal costs associated with the case. Lee plans to ask the county commissioners Wednesday how they wish to proceed on a variety of issues related to resolving the case.

That discussion likely will take place behind closed doors under an exemption to the state's open meetings laws allowing discussion of ongoing litigation. The county is also reviewing whether White can vote on issues involving the suit.

Lee said earlier this week that she is looking for ways to ensure White pays some portion of what the county owes, though most of it will probably fall to taxpayers.

An eight-person federal jury found last week that White sexually discriminated against Ogden by firing her after she rebuffed multiple sexual advances. They awarded her $75,000 in damages, including $15,000 to pay for past counseling sessions with Afield.

In addition to those costs, the county hired an outside law firm to represent its interests in the case at a cost of just over $170,000.

It is not the first time White's actions have cost taxpayers money.

In the early 1990s, the city of Tampa paid $85,000 to settle a lawsuit with a person injured in a car crash that took place while White was a police officer and was chasing an armed burglary suspect. The injured person was not the one being chased.

White resigned from the Police Department, which shortly thereafter found that he had violated the department's chase policy.

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

Hillsborough's cost for White case could approach $500,000 08/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:16am]
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