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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Property appraiser mess easy to assess

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 03:27 PM

If Rob Turner had played porn tag with anyone besides an employee whom he later fired, he might have gotten by.

His shot at moonlighting for Penthouse Forum would have been nipped in the bud, but chances are his name would have stayed off the front page of the newspaper. Instead, the beleaguered Hillsborough County property appraiser is left to explain the inexplicable and defend the indefensible.

Good luck with that.

By now, everyone knows Turner had a discrimination complaint filed against him by Carolyn Filippone, who had an affair with him while working as the human resources manager for Turner's office.

Turner admitted to the affair and sending Filippone tawdry text messages. That usually leads to no good end, and it certainly didn't in this case.

Then again, it never does.

Filippone said in the discrimination complaint that her duties were diminished and she was ultimately fired because she started saying no to his advances. The complaint was dismissed, and Turner told Mike Salinero of The Tampa Tribune that it is filled with "false allegations."

He also admitted to "a personal mistake."

Let's stop here a moment.

Turning left when you should have gone right is a mistake.

Locking your keys in the car is a mistake.

Having an affair with someone who works for you is not a mistake. It's a breach of trust unbecoming someone in Turner's position. Getting the county dragged into a possible lawsuit with the potential for massive damages is not a mistake you explain with "my bad."

No matter what justification Turner claims for firing Filippone, the only words people hear are "affair" and "pornographic texts." The laugh track drowns out all other sounds.

I suppose it's piling on to say the switch in Turner's brain marked "it's a dumb idea to have an affair with any of my employees, but especially one with the job title of human resources manager" should have been activated.

Maybe it was. After all, Turner said explicitly (OK, maybe not the best word choice there) that none of the text messages took place on county time or equipment, as if that excuses anything.

What that tells me is Turner knew the trouble he could get into and thought he could cover his tracks if he kept this between consenting adults and off the county dime. How's that strategy working out?

By most accounts, Turner has been a pretty good property appraiser since he was first elected in 1996. He was almost certain to face clear sailing for re-election in November. But now, who knows?

What we do know is the county has another zipper-related mess to deal with.

In 2009, then-Commissioner Kevin White cost taxpayers $278,000 to settle a sexual discrimination lawsuit. A judge also ruled the county's insurance company had to pay for White's defense in that case.

I guess it comes down to a matter of expectations. People expect elected leaders to show integrity and good judgment. Turner, I guess, just expected he wouldn't get caught.


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