Plant City Commissioner Billy Keel’s involvement in the police chief’s sex scandal investigation needs to be thoroughly explored by an independent agency that can determine whether his conduct represents an abuse of power.
According to a sworn statement from a woman involved in the scandal, Keel used an intermediary to ask the woman to keep quiet about what she knew. It appears the intent was to protect Keel’s friend, Chief Steve Singletary, who was ultimately fired after an investigation overseen by City Manager Gregory Horwedel.
Keel isn’t talking publicly about the woman’s statement, so Mayor Mary Mathis should ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state Commission on Ethics to investigate whether a sitting commissioner tried to influence a witness involved in an investigation with serious consequences.
Horwedel is to be commended for pursuing the facts that led to Singletary’s dismissal.
According to Horwedel, the chief was having an ongoing affair with a married woman, and some of their secret meetings occurred on city property.
On some occasions the chief took a sick day from work to meet the woman, who is the witness who gave sworn testimony that Keel tried to influence her cooperation with investigators.
Generally speaking, elected officials are empowered to set policy, adopt budgets and hire the top administrator for their government entity. They are forbidden from sticking their noses into the daily affairs of running the government they represent, and for a good reason. They shouldn’t be perceived as throwing their weight around to influence an administrative decision that might bring them some personal gain, or that might get someone they know hired, fired, or spared from being fired.
As a member of the city commission, Keel is essentially Horwedel’s boss, and therefore the city needs an outside review of the evidence that one of their elected officials abused his office.
Anything less will give the appearance of sweeping it under the rug.