Attorney suspended by Florida bar nearly 6 years after controversial payouts of more than $250,000

Video: Attorney suspended by Florida bar nearly 6 years after controversial payouts more than $250,000

ORLANDO, Fla. — A local attorney is barred from practicing for at least a year for his actions that involved the Orange County Clerk of Courts office and more than $250,000.

WFTV has reported for years on how two top employees at the clerk’s office took big severance payouts but then continued to work.

The questionable claims came from the two employees, just one day after Clerk of Courts’ Lydia Gardner died.

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It's taken nearly six years for this action to come from the Florida bar.

In May 2014, top officials at the Orange County Clerk of Courts office wasted no time in capitalizing on the death of Gardner.

Her general council, Stephan Carter, and deputy clerk, Colleen Reilly, scrapped their current contracts and took payouts topping $270,00, and then went right back to work under new contracts.

WFTV previously reported that after a new clerk of courts took over, the strange and lucrative deal came to light.

“The payments were improper, and we are going to seek restitution,” said former clerk of court, Eddie Fernandez. “I think the people are entitled to their money. This office is entitled to its money and we are going to pursue that.”

Carter and Reilly paid back the money, but more than a half-decade later, Carter's law license has been suspended by the Florida Supreme Court for one year.

WFTV’s legal analyst Bill Shaeffer said cases that don't involve client money or criminal wrongdoing are not rushed through Florida bar investigations.

“When the Florida bar perceives that there is not an immediate danger to a client or client's assets, they believe they have time to investigate the case thoroughly before they take some action,” Shaeffer said.

At the time, then State Attorney Jeff Ashton opted not to prosecute criminally. Both Reilly and Carter left their jobs at the clerk’s office. Carter was ordered to pay more than $11,000 in fines.