TAMPA — The former human resources director accusing Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner of sending her porn is now contemplating a wrongful termination lawsuit against him.
Carolyn Filippone has retained civil litigator Chris Jayson, he confirmed Wednesday.
Jayson said he and his client are still evaluating their options, which could include resolving the matter without a lawsuit. But any action they take will center on Turner's firing of Filippone after a sexual discrimination complaint she filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against him was dismissed, he said.
"In the initial complaint, she wasn't seeking money damages,'' Jayson said. "She just wanted to be treated fairly like anyone else. Now that he has terminated and left her with an inability to provide for her family, she has been hurt.
"The decision to terminate her because of her complaint to the EEOC was unconscionable and illegal."
Jayson will be working with Steven Wenzel, who had represented Filippone on her EEOC complaint against Turner. Wenzel said the pairing brings more resources to seeing a wrong righted. He noted that Turner has been represented by the large, statewide law firm Akerman Senterfitt.
"We're the David. They're the Goliath," Wenzel said. "We're just a bigger David now."
Attempts to reach Turner and his attorney were unsuccessful.
Filippone, 49, filed her discrimination complaint with the EEOC in early 2010. She said she had been subjected to repeated sexual advances by Turner electronically and in conversation.
She alleged that she previously had an "adult relationship" with Turner that ended in 2006. She claims Turner attempted to rekindle a sexual relationship and, when she refused, she was moved to a Brandon satellite office and cut off from peers.
The move occurred, she said, shortly after Turner's wife discovered some of her husband's text messages to Filippone.
As part of her complaint, Filippone included more than 40 emails she said she got from Turner, which included graphic pornographic images or links to porn sites, as proof of his come-ons.
Turner admitted sending porn to Filippone in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month. But he said they were part of a mutual and consensual exchange. He said the emails were sent during nonwork hours using personal equipment.
He said the rest of Filippone's EEOC complaint was false, which was the reason he cited for firing her shortly after the Times interview. He has acknowledged that his wife discovered some of their correspondence, but said it was lewd texts from Filippone.
In the interview, Turner acknowledged dating Filippone but said the relationship ended in the first quarter of 2002 at the latest. Both were single at that time and Turner said the relationship began as he was undergoing a divorce and before he started dating his current wife. He remarried in July 2007.
Turner was first elected in 1996. He hired Filippone, with whom he had worked at NationsBank, as a training technician in 1997. She received a series of promotions afterward, ultimately overseeing human resources and community services.
Jayson was previously a law partner with Barry Cohen in a firm that handled many high-profile cases. His new partners were lawyers in that firm.
He said he was not yet prepared to discuss Turner's characterization of his relationship with Filippone or his contention that the emails he sent her were part of an exchange. He said those details will be secondary.
"She stands by the allegations of her complaint," Jayson said. "And the mere fact that he fired her for filing the complaint is enough for a wrongful termination case."
Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.