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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
Local Breaking News

Renee Lee admits to lying about lunch with former commissioner White

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TAMPA - Former Hillsborough County Attorney Renee Lee has pleaded guilty to violating Florida Bar rules by lying and is on course to be publicly reprimanded.

Lee entered the guilty plea Friday in a conditional consent judgment approved by the bar. The judgment also must be approved by a court-appointed referee and the Florida Supreme Court before a final order is issued.

Lee has agreed to pay $1,778 in legal expenses associated with the bar complaint within 30 days of the Supreme Court's approval. If the judgment is not approved, the reprimand does not take effect and Lee doesn't have to pay.

The bar filed the complaint in January saying Lee lied about the circumstances under which she had lunch with former County Commissioner Kevin White.

The lunch occurred in early April 2011 while White and the county were suing each other over who should pay legal costs related to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the commissioner by a former female aide. Lee was not actively involved in either lawsuit, though she was county attorney at the time.

According to the complaint, Lee told the media and Commissioner Al Higginbotham that the lunch with White was not planned. However, text messages between Lee and White that were released to the media showed her statement was not true.

In May, the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed a ruling last year against Lee by the Florida Commission on Ethics. The commission found probable cause Lee broke the law by issuing a legal opinion approving a 1 percent pay raise for herself and others when she worked at the county. The commission fined Lee $5,000 and issued a public reprimand.

Lee could not be reached for comment Friday.

msalinero@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-8303

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