ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Two former top employees at the Orange County Clerk of Courts Office could face criminal investigation after being accused of taking severance payouts and then staying on the job.
New Clerk of Court Eddie Fernandez told Channel 9 on Thursday he investigated after Gov. Rick Scott got a tip, and now he's forwarding his findings to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Fernandez is also demanding that former interim clerk Colleen Reilly and her general counsel pay the nearly $300,000 back by next Tuesday or else they'll be sued.
An independent law firm hired by Fernandez concluded $277,000 in payouts Reilly and general counsel former Judge Stephan Carter gave themselves show such irresponsibility and lack of judgment that they should be fired.
"The payments were improper and we are going to seek restitution," said Fernandez. "I think the people are entitled to their money. This office is entitled to its money, and we are going to pursue that."
Reilly and Carter both resigned before they were fired, and Channel 9's Kathi Belich learned neither has any intention of paying the money back.
Carter said in a letter he was allowing Fernandez to mold his staff to his liking.
The Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell Law Firm said Carter's job was to make sure Reilly did nothing improper but instead the law firm said Carter helped orchestrate the questionable payouts despite questions their subordinates were raising about it.
The deals were made with former clerk Lydia Gardner in case they lost their jobs when she left office, Belich said.
Gardner died while in office.
The county said Carter took a termination payout the very next day even though he was not terminated.
The county said Reilly's severance deal expired when Gardner died. She still took the severance pay, and then got a raise because she then took over for Gardner, said Belich.
After Reilly took the payout she refused to talk to Channel 9 about how her office processed forged documents that sprung two murderers from prison and stonewalled WFTV's requests for financial documents, said Belich.