Public Money for Legal Fees Clay Official Defends Using County Funds
Cravey, Beth Reese, The Florida Times Union
GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- Clay County Clerk of Court John Keene
yesterday defended his use of more than $60,000 in public funds
to pay legal fees connected to a 1994 ethics complaint and said
that county taxpayers would also foot the bill for a related
federal complaint filed against him this year.
In a prepared statement read to the Clay County Commission,
Keene said the legal expenses he incurred defending ethics
complaints against him and his finance director, as well as
attempting to force his accuser to pay the initial bill, were
not his personal responsibility.
"I believe that not only was the expenditure of attorneys fees
justified, it was and continues to be the legal obligation of
Clay County to pay those expenses," he said in the statement.
That means that, as far as Keene as concerned, the county also
will be on the hook for Keene's defense in a federal civil
rights lawsuit filed by former County Commissioner Ron Stotler,
who also filed the initial ethics complaint against the clerk.
Earlier this month, the County Commission officially asked
Keene to provide justification for his use of public funds to
pay his attorneys. At yesterday's meeting, he gave the
commission the statement and a thick binder of financial
He refused to answer questions or make further comments, saying
that his attorneys had advised him not to do so because of the
In February 1994, Stotler filed Ethics Commission complaints
against Keene and his finance director, Don Moore, concerning
their handling of a county budget crisis in 1993. The complaint
against Keene was dropped in April 1994 without investigation;
the one against Moore was dismissed the following September.
The cost to county taxpayers to defend the complaint against
Keene totaled about $5,900, according to an analysis of Keene's
legal fees by the TimesUnion. Invoices indicate that at least
$42,200 was directly attributable to Keene's action to recover
legal fees from Stotler, which the Ethics Commission denied, the
analysis showed. …