County Attorney Renee Lee in hot water after lunch, text messages with former Commissioner Kevin White

5:54 PM, May 23, 2011   |    comments
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Texts show County Attorney Renee Lee may not have been truthful about the "happenstance" lunch meeting with Kevin White, who the county is suing.

Tampa, Florida -- Hillsborough Attorney Renee Lee is in hot water over a lunch with former Commissioner Kevin White and the text messages she sent to him.

The county is currently suing White, and commissioners are upset their attorney is having meetings with the man they are suing.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe says he believes Lee misled the board. Sharpe is upset by text messages where White asks Lee, "Are we still on for lunch this week?" and she replies, "Lunch is on what about Tuesday?" Lee adds, "I've been hurt for you guys by the publicity this week. Don't let them steal your joy."

Read the text messages between Kevin White and Renee Lee (JPG)

Sharpe says the commission needs to review this very carefully. He described his feelings as "white hot" anger.

In another text to White, Lee says, "I saw [10 News reporter Mike] Deeson's story in the news clips today." Lee is referring to a previous story we did about the meeting. She says, "I just want to tell you I did not tell anyone I bumped into you. I decided early on there is no reason to lie."

Despite what Lee says in the text, she told us she had just bumped into White. At least one elected official tells us Lee also told him the meeting with White was "happenstance."

As for the contention Lee was having lunch with another friend when she was with White, we have learned that Lee was at Roy's Restaurant with White for half an hour before her friend showed up.

In an e-mail to commissioners after our initial story, Lee says, "I have been asked about having lunch with Kevin White and a friend of mine. It is true. There was no county business discussed."

That seems somewhat hard to believe, because Lee was discussing county business in another text asking, "Did you just buy a house in Riverview? The litigator got a reporter, but no problem." That litigator is suing White on behalf of the county.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner says credibility is called into question.

White's attorney, Michael Laurato is angry as well saying, "It is inappropriate for Ms. Lee to have contact with my client without me being present." He adds "I believe this could result in disciplinary action from the Florida Bar."

Beckner says it is the integrity of it: "If you can't trust your own attorney, who you can trust?"

We called Lee's office several times and we were told she would call us back; however she never returned our calls.

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