Friday, October 17, 2014

Tampa International Airport (KTPA) ex-lawyer being investigated for Sunshine Law violation

TAMPA — The Florida Bar is investigating whether former Hillsborough County Aviation Authority attorney Gigi Rechel, who abruptly resigned on Thursday, violated the state's Sunshine Law governing open public records. 

The Bar said Friday that it has started an inquiry into Rechel in her capacity as the authority's general counsel. Rechel, 53, spent 15 years giving legal advice to the board that oversees Tampa International Airport before announcing her immediate retirement on Thursday.

"There are possible public records violations," said Florida Bar spokeswoman Francine Walker. "I can confirm that we do have such a complaint pending at a staff level investigation."

That level is the first step in the Bar's disciplinary process. It's a preliminary investigation conducted by a Bar attorney to determine whether there's any merit to the complaint and whether it should go up to the next level for further inquiry.

The Bar would not identify who filed the complaint, when it was filed or what the specific allegations in the complaint are.

But anyone is free to file a compliant against a lawyer in Florida, and the Bar must make a preliminary inquiry into all such complaints. According to the Bar, Rechel has had no disciplinary action taken against her in the past 10 years. The Bar has also not conducted any investigations into Rechel's conduct in the past year.

Rechel made $210,000 annually as the airport's top lawyer. She could not be reached for comment Friday. The airport said it may release a statement later in the day.

Rechel announced her retirement Thursday through this statement sent to the authority:

"After 15 years with the aviation authority, I am announcing today my retirement with an agreement to stay committed with the transition and certain projects until January 15th.

"My tenure as counsel for the authority, while challenging, has been rewarding professionally and I am proud of our many accomplishments. The management team of Joe Lopano has been successful and has charted an ambitious new path for the airport. The time is now right for me to enjoy a new challenge. I wish everyone well at the Authority."

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