Hillsborough County Commissioners today deadlocked on a 3-3 vote to begin pursuing litigation against their colleague, Kevin White, to try to get back some of the legal fees and obligations they owe in his sexual discrimination lawsuit.
The motion proposed by Commissioner Rose Ferlita was supported by Jim Norman and Al Higgenbotham.
A substitute motion offered was offered by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who said that the Board was making a rush to judgement, and should await a response from White's attorney about possibly making payment on some of the estimated $500,000 that the County owes in the lawsuit.
But that too, went down to defeat when it tied at 3-3, with Ken Hagen and Mark Sharpe supporting Beckner.
White abstained on both votes.
But he was not silent. In a somewhat dramatic move, he unveiled a copy of a draft ordinance that would address a sexual discrimination policy for County Commissioners.
Citing Federal Judge Richard Lazarra's comments, he said that the reason that the County's taxypayers are on the hook for paying for White's transgression is because the County Government failed to have a policy in place.
He then said that though he was sorry, he said that it was never proven in his week long trial that he was guilty of sexually harassing anybody, but that the jury wanted to send a message to the County.
"There is not a fact of guilt", he declared. He then said that the reason he has never responded about what he might be able to pay the County was because he still does not know what his own financial exposure is legally.
Throughout the discussion, Commissioner Beckner said he was startled to see the Board jump to want to conduct more litigation, and said he thought their colleague deserved the same due process as all.
Rose Ferlita fired back that White had due process in a court of law.
So, ultimately, nothing was decided.
However, after a County Attorney came out to discuss a new policy on sexual discrimination that Commissioners should approve, Commissioner Beckner suggested that sexual orientation and gender identity should be included in the new Ordinance.
County Attorney Renee Lee said she would work on it. That prompted Jim Norman to say that he was very disturbed, calling that a "back door attempt" at changing the County's Human Rights Ordinance. Norman said that there would have to be public hearings on the matter if the County attempted to do that.
After his comments, Commissioner Ferlita fired back saying, "In my mind, he's already had due process."