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Tampa Bay-area commissioner Hagan wants watchdogs to pay for his ethics defense

Tampa Bay-area commissioner Hagan wants watchdogs to pay for his ethics defense

  • HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — County Commissioner Ken Hagan is asking his fellow commissioners for permission to spend up to $10,000 more to pay an attorney to seek reimbursement from citizens who filed ethics complaints against him.
  • Following a 2015 10Investigates story detailing the close relationship political consultant and lobbyist Beth Leytham had with Hagan, Commissioner Sandy Murman, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a group of concerned citizens filed complaints with the Florida Commission on Ethics.
  • Taxpayers paid to defend the public officials in the ethics investigation, with the county initially approving $20,000 for outside attorneys defending Hagan and Murman.
  • If commissioners approve spending more on Hagan’s ethics case, attorney Mark Levine will submit a petition for fees & costs to the commission, who will have to determine if complainants George Niemann, Charlotte Greenbarg, Shirley Wood, and Lela Lillyquist knowingly filed false complaints and if the county can prove beyond a reasonable…
  • In 2015, Hillsborough County commissioners, including White, voted 6-1 to seek reimbursement against Joe Keel from Keel & Curley Winery after he unsuccessfully filed an ethics complaint against Commissioner Al Higginbotham.

Taxpayers paid to defend the public officials in the ethics investigation, with the county initially approving $20,000 to defend Hagan and Murman.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — County Commissioner Ken Hagan is asking his fellow commissioners for permission to spend up to $10,000 more to pay an attorney to seek reimbursement from citizens who filed ethics complaints against him.

Following a 2015 10Investigates story detailing the close relationship political consultant and lobbyist Beth Leytham had with Hagan, Commissioner Sandy Murman, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a group of concerned citizens filed complaints with the Florida Commission on Ethics.  The commission found “sufficient evidence” to investigate, but after two years, ultimately echoed the separate Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office investigation that concluded key public records may have been deleted, but there was no “probable cause” to pursue charges.

Taxpayers paid to defend the public officials in the ethics investigation, with the county initially approving $20,000 for outside attorneys defending Hagan and Murman.

Hagan’s request was added to the consent agenda for Wednesday’s regular board meeting, but board chair Stacy White says he has already designated the item for a full discussion and plans on opposing it.  White tells 10Investigates he is concerned about setting a “bad precedent” of squashing citizens who try to blow the whistle on elected officials.

“How can you tell if someone is trying to use ethics complaints as a weapon, versus just someone who thinks of themselves as a watchdog?” White asked rhetorically.

If commissioners approve spending more…

Tampa Bay-area commissioner Hagan wants watchdogs to pay for his ethics defense

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