Friday, January 19, 2018
Opinion

Assessment of Rob Turner: kinda icky

At the risk of presumptuousness, a word of caution for Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner, R-Boogie Nights.

When disgraced former County Commissioner Kevin White eventually gets out of federal prison, wherever he goes, he will forever be known as that dirty, corrupt, creepy, on-the-take pol. Now there's a legacy for you.

Mr. Turner? Welcome to the cone of shame club. Was it worth it?

In the time it took for a few clicks on a computer, Turner managed to transform a reputation as a sort of boring, courtly bean counter to dirty old man. The image of a louse who peddles porn to a female subordinate will haunt whatever good his office accomplished, or how effectively he performed his job.

This isn't about what kind of public servant Turner has been in his 16 years in office. It's about what kind of man he is. And that verdict is sorely wanting.

I've covered all manner of public officials over the years — the bribe takers, the buffoons, the bumpkins and the poltroons. More often than not, I'm not able to get a straight, simple answer to this question: What in heaven's name were you thinking?

Turner has admitted he sent a staffer, Carolyn Filippone, pornography and other X-rated messages. The fact that Filippone was also the property appraiser's director of human resources, which is supposed to police inappropriate office behavior, is an irony wrapped in hypocrisy enshrouded in insanity.

On the other hand this wasn't as if Turner had been sending naughty material to Aunt Bee. The property appraiser's coo-coo-ca-choo film festival occurred from about 2006 to 2009. But Filippone apparently didn't get properly offended until 2010, when she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint after being sent to a satellite office.

Filippone also accused Turner of sending photos of ... well simply think Anthony Weiner and let your imagination be your guide.

As alibis go, Turner's explanation and/or defense of his actions was about as believable as Jack Ruby claiming he was in Cleveland when Lee Harvey Oswald bought the ranch.

"From a personal standpoint, from a family standpoint, it was a mistake to do that," Turner claimed. "It's embarrassing."

A mistake? That's all? Embarrassing? Really?

Not quite. Had Turner inadvertently dropped an F-bomb while speaking to a kindergarten class — that would be a mistake. Had the property appraiser gotten a bit tipsy and been stopped by the cops — that would be embarrassing.

Turner, R-Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?, thought it would be a bully idea to send Internet links to cheesy porn videos and racy text messages to an employee. Did he think this sort of thing made him a more alluring stud muffin? Did he honestly believe his blue behavior would never be, uh, exposed?

In other political cultures, when an elected official is discovered stepping on his ethics, the proper course of action is to apologize and withdraw from public life.

Turner, the Casanova of Kennedy Boulevard, has opted to take the Silvio Berlusconi route, which asserts that no amount of public humiliation, shame, scorn, disrepute and employees wearing bags over the heads on the way into work will prevent him from trying to hang on to office.

What would it take for this chap to grasp that the body politic is going to regard him as more lounge lizard than millage expert? An expose that he has installed a brass pole in the employee break room? Better not give him any ideas.

Turner is convinced his political fortunes are simply hunky-dory, arguing that since he has done a good job in office, the public will forgive the fact he's kinda icky.

Maybe Turner is right.

But at every community forum, every political event he attends, it is more likely voters will look at Turner, listen to his analysis of homestead exemptions and tangible property values, and their minds will wander.

What kind of person does what Turner did? What possesses an elected official to send porn and other assorted untoward messages to an employee — for years on end?

Who does that sort of thing and what does it say about his character, sense of self-respect, regard for the office he holds?

Rob Turner sees himself as a politician trying to get re-elected. The public sees a rake in a raincoat. What were you thinking?

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