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WHITE LIKELY CAN'T PAY BILL

The commissioner lost a sexual discrimination lawsuit against a former employee.

Kevin White has faced the same question three times from a fellow Hillsborough County commissioner: Will he pay any of the bill from his sexual discrimination trial last month?

White has so far refused to answer the nearly $500,000 question as commissioners considered appealing the verdict.

"If we know we have a partner that's our co-defendant, that's good," said Rose Ferlita, who posed the question. "But if we have a co-defendant that's not a partner, that's another issue."

So just how much would White be able to pay?

A review of public records, including his most recent annual financial disclosure report, raises doubt about White's ability to contribute much. In December 2008, White listed debts of $373,000 and his $98,000 commissioner's salary as a main source of income.

He's also got legal bills of his own.

A federal civil jury found last month that White discriminated against former aide Alyssa Ogden by firing her for refusing his sexual advances. The county was held jointly liable.

Commissioners voted last week not to appeal and to negotiate with White about the costs of the case. They include $75,000 in damages to Ogden, $211,000 for her lawyer and roughly $180,000 for the county's outside attorney.

White, a 44-year-old Democrat, told the St. Petersburg Times last week that he owes his lawyers nearly as much as the county spent on its lawyer. He said he has had to tap retirement money and a college fund for his two children.

The potential ongoing cost will play a part in whether he appeals the verdict on his own, he said.

"I'm out a great deal of money in terms of attorney fees," White said. "I have to figure out whether its financially feasible (to appeal)."

His savings were limited to begin with, records show.

White listed a net worth of $143,000 as of the end of last year, and some of that may represent optimistic accounting.

Among his assets: $45,000 worth of furniture, clothing and jewelry, cars valued at $65,000 and $50,000 in savings, including retirement money. That was well before the trial.

Like most people, White lists his biggest asset as his home, which is located in southeast Seminole Heights in central Tampa. He estimates its value at $325,000 as of December 2008, according to the financial disclosure report.

The Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office estimates its market value as $243,033 as of Jan. 1.

White's wood-frame home, built in 1941 and expanded to 2,900 square feet, is larger than most in the neighborhood of modest bungalows and block houses. Still, in the past year, only one other home in his neighborhood has sold for more than $200,000, according to the property appraiser's Web site.

"That's probably the least desirable part of Seminole Heights," said Jeff Shelton of Hughes-Shelton Realtors-Coldwell Banker, who has spent years selling homes in Seminole Heights and once lived in the area of White's home. "I think he's overstating that value, and I think he'd have a hard time finding an appraiser that would appraise at that value."

White bought the house with his wife, Jennie, in 2003 for $191,000. Among his liabilities, he jointly lists two bank loans totaling $310,000, though his disclosure form doesn't make clear if they are mortgages on the house.

Other details on White's properties and mortgages, which would typically be public record, are labeled confidential. State law allows current and former law enforcement workers to shield such information from the public. White is a former Tampa police officer.

The disclosure also lists three other loans totaling $38,000, including $3,000 due to Lexus Financial. He's got $25,000 in credit card debt.

In addition to his commission job, White lists two other sources of income, but claims they produced less than $1,000. One, CJW Ventures, is a holding company for a rental home he owns in the same neighborhood. The other is his upstart security company, Icon Security Solutions.

In a September 2008 deposition for the Ogden case, White said the rental house did not have a tenant at that time. Property records estimate the value of the 1,000-square-foot house purchased in 2007 at $80,267.

While White claimed CJW had no reportable income, it does have debt.

White and his wife bought the rental property at 1216 E Cayuga St. in for $115,000, financing the purchase with a $150,000 mortgage. That loan remains open, according to public records.

The security company had worked on just one job since it was created in April 2008, he testified.

White and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 1991 while he was still working as a Tampa police officer. They lost a home to foreclosure while the case was being settled, White said in his deposition in the Ogden case.

Jennie White is a nurse, and state disclosure laws don't require him to list her income. Attempts to reach White late last week to discuss details of his financial disclosure form were not successful.

Commissioners have discussed suing White to collect some of the money owed to Ogden and her attorney. But some of them have expressed concerns that it would do any good.

"If Commissioner White were to indicate that he weren't able to pay, as I understand it, we would be stuck with the full amount, isn't that right?" Commissioner Mark Sharpe said during one such discussion two weeks ago.

County Attorney Renee Lee said White could indeed seek bankruptcy protection, a prospect that she said she floated because he has done so before. Lee said late last week she hasn't researched White's finances since commissioners haven't given her firm direction.

"There's no reason for me to look into his personal life or finances until the board decides what they want me to do," she said.

Times researcher John Martin and Staff Writer Jeff Testerman contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

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