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Witness in sex bias suit threatened with sanctions

TAMPA — Businessman C. Blythe Andrews Jr. could face sanctions if he does not answer questions under oath in a sexual discrimination lawsuit brought by a former aide to Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin White.

U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara wants to hear Andrews' account of what took place on a trip to Atlanta that is a central part of the lawsuit.

Andrews can either arrange to sit for a deposition or appear before Lazzara Dec. 18 to explain why he should not face sanctions. An attorney for Alyssa Ogden, the aide who has filed the suit, claims Andrews has missed two prior scheduled depositions.

Ogden claims White, 44, made a pass at her while they were on a business trip to Atlanta. He asked her to go with him in April, 2007, during the first week she was on the job. She was 22 at the time.

She claims that White showed up at her hotel room unannounced and tried to sleep in the same bed with her. Her lawsuit claims she was fired seven months later for refusing that and other sexual advances.

White has denied those claims.

Portions of White's deposition were filed with the court Tuesday. In those pages, White said it was Ogden who asked to accompany him to Atlanta.

"I told her she was an adult, and I had no part of that, and she could do whatever she felt was right," he testified.

White also said during the Sept. 18 deposition that Andrews offered to reimburse him if he paid for Ogden's plane ticket.

Andrews, 78, chairman of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin newspaper was already in Atlanta at the time, and White and Ogden were to meet with him.

White testified that he introduced Andrews and Ogden in a passing moment before she was hired at the county. Afterward, White said, Andrews remarked that she was "very, very beautiful," a commentary he would make often.

Asked to elaborate, White said Andrews would say, " 'Boy, if I could just be with her it would make my day,' and that it would make an old man feel young."

Andrews said he believed Ogden liked him as well, White said. White said Ogden once told him she likes older men.

While in Atlanta, White said he observed Andrews give Ogden a large sum of money and spent more than $1,000 on clothes for her, calling her "baby." He said he assumed Ogden and Andrews stayed in the same hotel room, which he said he never visited.

Attempts to reach Andrews at the newspaper Tuesday were not successful, and an attorney for him did not return a phone call. The attorney, Jeraldine Williams Shaw, has previously denied any sexual intent on the part of Andrews, and suggested White was trying to divert attention from his own troubles.

In his order Tuesday, Lazzara wrote, "It is obvious from excerpts from (White's) own deposition attached to the motion that the witness, Blythe Andrews, has highly relevant information with regard to events that occurred while Plaintiff, Defendant White and Mr. Andrews were in Atlanta, Ga., as well as the reasons for the trip to that city and who paid for Plaintiff's travel expenses."

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

Witness in sex bias suit threatened with sanctions 12/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 11:00pm]
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