Plant City Commission will ask state to investigate allegations against Keel
Keel accused of interferring in chief's probe
7:37 PM, Feb 10, 2014
10:24 AM, Feb 11, 2014
The Plant City Commission agreed Monday to ask the state to investigate allegations that one of its members interfered with an investigation into the police chief's career-ending affair.
Commissioner Billy Keel, who faces the accusations, suggested the city hand them over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Ethics Commission.
Keel's remarks at the meeting were the first time he has spoken publicly about the allegations since Police Chief Steven Singletary was fired over policy violations he committed amid an extramarital affair he carried on while on duty.
The woman involved in the affair, Melissa Hardwick, and her husband, Jason, told investigators that Keel, a close friend of Singletary, tried to keep Hardwick quiet during the administrative investigation into the police chief's actions.
"It made me mad," Hardwick told a city investigator. "He wanted me not to speak to anyone."
City Manager Greg Horwedel said at the meeting he supports Keel's request.
"I believe it will help bring closure to this issue," he said.
Keel briefly explained that he was not voting on the matter per the city attorney's advice and made no attempt to explain or defend himself during the meeting. He refused to answer questions from reporters on his way into the meeting. He and his wife replied "no comment" and ignored all questions as they entered.
In a statement issued Friday, Keel acknowledged the allegations against him for the first time. "I in no way used or attempted to use in any manner my position as city commissioner of the City of Plant City to intervene in this or any other investigation," he said, "not now, and not ever."
After Monday's meeting, Mayor Martha Mathis deflected all questions back to the commissioner.
"I can't speak for Commissioner Keel but I hope the investigative report will," she said.
Meanwhile, concerned citizens are now calling on Keel to step down.
"I think the commissioner should resign," Nick Plummer said. "If you do your job this won't happen. As a commissioner, you know you're going to be toeing the line. You can't hide these things."
Mayor Mathis told reporters she would send the request to the FDLE as soon as the paperwork is signed.