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Daniel Ruth

A starring role in annals of sleaze

Let's face it: When it comes to picking up women, Kevin White would appear to have all the panache, all the savoir faire, all the elegant urbane understatement of those two wild and crazy guys from Saturday Night Live, Georg and Yortuk Festrunk, trying to get lucky at the Miss America Pageant.

It's sort of a toss-up here. What's the real embarrassment for the Hillsborough County Commission's answer to Quasimodo meets the lounge lizard from hell? That Commissioner White attempted to turn his public office into Hedonism II? Or that he was so horrifically bad at it?

A federal jury agreed last week that White did indeed sexually harass an aide, Alyssa Ogden. And when she rejected his repeated kissy-face advances that had all the charm of the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles, the elected official canned her.

It is certainly true that being accused of regarding employees as one's own personal harem is never a good thing, especially when you have to go before the electorate every four years and bumptiously claim to be an honest, forthright man of integrity. Cue the laugh track.

But Kevin White has only compounded his problematic political future by demonstrating that in addition to having ethical bearings that would make a Chicago alderman blush with envy, he is also dumber than a sack of Mike Tysons.

In the annals of alibis, Jack Ruby would have been more believable if he had argued he was home alone watching Bonanza when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald live on national television.

But there was Kevin White, the Stud Muffin of Kennedy Boulevard, taking the stand during the trial and insisting that — tut-tut, harrumph-harrumph — he had no licentious intentions himself toward young Ms. Ogden during a very creepy weekend trip to Atlanta shortly after the aide had entered into White's employ. None at all! Perish the thought!

Why he was simply attempting to pimp her out to facilitate a dangerous coo-coo-ca-choo liaison between his employee and C. Blythe Andrews, the aging and infirm publisher of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, who also happens to be a long-time, but soon-to-end, political supporter of the commissioner.

Whew! That was close call. For a moment there someone might had gotten the idea that some hanky-panky might have been afoot.

Well, White's effort to throw his mentor under a CSX train went over about as well with Andrews (not to mention Mrs. Andrews!) as had Jane Fonda applied for membership with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The trial was filled with seedy testimony regarding White's behavior on the Atlanta escapade that made Larry Flynt look like a pillar of dignity. There was White calling Ogden at all hours of the night. There was White, according to the aide's testimony, asking to sleep with her because he had been an only child. Well, thank goodness one White offspring was enough!

To be sure, White's defense was looking like the judicial equivalent of The Jerry Springer Show, when the commissioner, who had already been busily shooting himself in the foot, decided to pull out an assault rifle to finish off the job.

On the stand, White insisted he was a paragon of public virtue, which then opened the door for Ogden's attorney to ask the commissioner about a host of gaffes, including a 2007 elections law violation when the Casanova of the body politic had to pay a fine for attempting to use campaign funds to pay for his fancy suits. Uh-oh.

It was right about here White's attorney, Matt Fenton, had to be thinking to himself, "Good grief, I would have had an easier time helping Sacco and Vanzetti beat the rap."

In the end, the jury sided with Ogden that she had been subjected to the unwanted attentions of the Cyrano de Bergerac-lite of the County Center and awarded her $75,000 in damages, about half of what she was seeking based on the assumption possibly that this young woman ought to have been aware she was going to work for a tawdry pol who makes everyone around him want to take a shower.

Taxpayers are now on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees the county incurred to defend itself in this case. If Kevin White had a scintilla of self-respect or common decency, he would resign the office he has so sullied.

But this is the Hillsborough County Commission after all, a group of glad-handers historically notorious for welcoming all manner of rogues, dimwits, eccentrics, crazy nuts, thieves, demagogues, boneheads and lap dogs.

Perhaps Commissioner Kevin White, D-What's Your Sign?, figured his peers wouldn't notice he was sleazier than Mickey Rourke's body of work.

Perhaps he's right.

A starring role in annals of sleaze 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 6:55pm]
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