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Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Plant City manager won’t investigate city commissioner

PLANT CITY — City Manager Greg Horwedel says he won’t ask an outside agency to investigate allegations that Commissioner Billy Keel tried to silence a key witness in a probe of then-Police Chief Steve Singletary.

Horwedel said Thursday that he repeatedly has been asked if he will request the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or state Commission on Ethics to take a look at Keel’s actions.

He sent a memo Thursday night to commissioners making it clear it’s not his job to ask an outside agency to see if Keel did anything wrong.

Horwedel fired Singletary late last month after determining that the chief spent time with a lover on city time, among other alleged misdeeds. But the investigation took an unexpected turn when the woman, Melissa Hardwick, swore under oath that Keel tried through a mutual friend to persuade her to not cooperate with the city’s investigation.

Keel and the other commissioners are Horwedel’s bosses. Horwedel said it’s not his place to ask for an investigation of Keel because the city manager has no authority over the council.

Horwedel said his job required only that he investigate the allegations against Singletary, his subordinate.

It’s unclear if there will be an investigation.

Commissioners may be reluctant to call for a probe of one of their own, although veteran Commissioner Mike Sparkman thinks it would be a good idea.

“I think we need to clear the air. Someone from the outside needs to take a look at it. I don’t know that Commissioner Keel did anything wrong, but right now there’s a cloud over it,” Sparkman said.

Sparkman said he originally thought Horwedel would initiate an investigation by forwarding his report to FDLE or the state ethics commission. Now that Horwedel said he won’t do that, he said he was not sure of the city’s next step.

Horwedel and Sparkman both said that anyone, even a member of the public, could file a complaint to ask for an investigation. Sparkman said he’s unsure if the issue will come up at Monday’s city commission meeting but said he’d favor a probe if it’s put to a vote.

Other commissioners were reluctant to take a stand or declined comment. Keel could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In his email, Horwedel emphasized that Keel did not ask him to derail the investigation his staff was conducting into Singletary.

“Commissioner Keel did not ask me to ignore any evidence, nor did he otherwise pressure me regarding the outcome of our administrative investigation,” he wrote.

Twitter: @dnicholsonTrib

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