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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Plant City commissioner won’t face witness tampering charges

City Commissioner Billy Keel won’t face criminal charges on allegations he tried to dissuade a witness from cooperating with a misconduct probe of his friend, former Police Chief Steve Singletary.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found no basis for seeking prosecution of Keel. The department will take no action on sworn testimony, documents and other facts of the case, a letter from Special Agent in Charge Rick Ramirez stated.

Melissa Hardwick, who was having an affair with Singletary while he was chief, swore under oath that Keel tried through a mutual friend to persuade her to remain silent if city investigators questioned her about the relationship.

Singletary was fired in January after then-City Manager Greg Horwedel concluded he had sex with Hardwick when he should have been at work, sometimes on city property.

Singletary acknowledged having an intimate relationship with Hardwick but said it was on his own time.

Horwedel resigned as city manager to become deputy Hillsborough County administrator.

The FDLE also cleared Singletary of criminal prosecution on assertions he might have falsified his time sheets to the city, according to a separate letter to city officials from Ramirez.

Keel asked his city commission colleagues to seek the investigation by the FDLE and the state Commission on Ethics because he maintained he had done nothing wrong and wanted to clear his name. The ethics commission has not announced what if anything it plans to do.

Keel could not be reached Tuesday for comment. A fellow city commissioner, Mike Sparkman, said he wasn’t surprised Keel was cleared by the FDLE.

“I didn’t really think it was going anywhere, but I’m glad we cleared the air. Now we can get back to the work of Plant City,” he said.

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