Thursday, February 22, 2018
Politics

Rick Kriseman announces several hires; chief of staff has past arrest

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman didn't look far when he added four more key appointments to his staff Thursday.

He reached back to his time in the Florida House in picking Kevin King to be his chief of staff and David Flintom to direct the mayor's action center. Both are former legislative aides.

Benjamin Kirby will be his communications director, and Jessica Eilerman will be Kriseman's small-business liaison.

King, 34, has worked closely with Kriseman for more than a decade: six years while Kriseman was on the City Council and another six when Kriseman was in the Florida House. During that time, King has been dogged by questions about his 2001 arrest stemming from accusations he propositioned a teenage girl to have sex.

The case has since been expunged from court files and its outcome could not be determined.

Based on the Times' account of his arrest then, King was 22 and working as a substitute teacher for Pinellas County Schools.

Investigators accused him of sending messages to two female students, ages 14 and 15, trying to get them to skip school and drink beer with him. Police said King also asked the 14-year-old to perform a sex act on him.

The 14-year-old's mother found a sexual proposition in the girl's email and went to police, a report said. Neither girl actually went with King.

He was charged with three felonies: one count of computer solicitation to commit a lewd and lascivious act, and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was released from the Pinellas County Jail after posting $5,500 bail. The school district fired him a day later.

On Thursday, King declined to speak about the allegations or provide copies of records, but said multiple times he was not convicted.

"It was resolved favorably," said King, who is married and has a young son. "The judge decided to seal the case. I never let it define my life."

He added: "I don't think this should be any concern. I've worked for taxpayers for many years."

Kriseman, a defense lawyer, said King could not have had the case expunged if he was convicted of any crime. He said he is comfortable with King and never asked to see any records that King might have about the case.

He stressed that taxpayers should not be concerned.

"I am very excited about the quality of the people I have," he said. "I am very comfortable with Kevin."

In a statement he released about the four appointments, Kriseman said of King: "Kevin is the natural choice to lead my office, ensure cohesion and help turn my vision into action and then reality. I've seen him in action for more than a decade and trust that he'll be the effective chief of staff that a strong-mayor form of government deserves."

Kriseman takes office Jan. 2. Mayor Bill Foster did not have a chief of staff position.

King first started working for Kriseman in 2003 when he was running for re-election to the City Council. From 2006 to 2012, he served as Kriseman's senior legislative assistant in the Florida House, overseeing policy agenda and communications strategy.

In 2005, King managed Darden Rice's unsuccessful bid for a City Council seat. He also directed the Florida Democratic Party's House Victory operation in 2008.

More recently, King, a 2002 graduate of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, advised Kriseman during the mayoral race while working as a consultant to a statewide nonprofit.

During the primary campaign, mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford questioned Kriseman's integrity for having King as a confidant.

The issue also surfaced in 2009.

King filed a police report in August 2009 after he and Kriseman received an anonymous postcard calling him a "child predator."

The mailing said he "had been arrested and convicted of a criminal charge years ago," a police report said.

The postcard detailed how "he was arrested, convicted and fired for some criminal charge involving a child," an officer wrote in the report.

King told the officer he was arrested in 2001 on a misdemeanor charge, but did not provide details of the arrest, noting that his record had been expunged, the report said. He also said he believed it was sent by a political enemy, similar to one he received three years earlier. He did not report that one.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @markpuente on Twitter.

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