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Suit: Rick Singh had strippers in office, spent thousands on personal travel

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh had strippers in the office and spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on personal travel, according to a lawsuit filed under the Whistleblower Protection Act by two female employees who were fired from the office.

Former communications director Laverne McGee said she was told to flirt with vendors and forge documents when it came to spending taxpayer money.

Aisha Hassan, who was in charge of finance, said she kept documents she was told to shred that might raise red flags in a county audit.

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McGee said in the lawsuit that the things she was asked to do for Singh went too far. She and Hassan said they altered documents at Singh's request that were part of the 2015 audit, the suit said.

The lawsuit, which seeks lost wages and benefits, was filed by McGee and Hassan after they were fired for what Singh's office said was poor performance.

The lawsuit said they were treated badly and were asked to do things they didn't want to do.

McGee said she was asked to cover for Singh by lying to his wife when he brought women, including strippers, to the OCPA's office after hours.

McGee and Hassan said Singh made derogatory comments about women, calling them whores and skanks and saying they had fat asses.

The majority of the suit has to do with what they said was the misspending of taxpayer money on trips before and after a county audit in 2015.

The lawsuit said Singh went on personal trips, racking up thousands in upgrades in hotel stays and airline tickets.

The lawsuit said Singh went to a real estate conference in Spain last year to which he was not invited.

The suit said he was reimbursed for the flight but never submitted his invoice.

They said taxpayers were billed more than $8,000 for Singh's trip to Spain, half of which paid for him to fly business class.

McGee alleged in the suit that Singh gave her a list of places he wanted to visit, telling her to "write up something and make it sound like it's legitimate" and "make up something that we can justify why the office is involved," so he could bill taxpayers for the travel.

The allegations are similar to those about other trips from Dallas to New York, where they said he billed taxpayers for personal travel expenses.

Singh allegedly had a county car and also took $540 a month for a car allowance, which cost $6,400 per year.

They said he spent $2,471 on home office furniture.

Channel 9 contacted the attorney for the women but has not yet heard back.

Singh's office provided Channel 9 the following statement Wednesday:

"The office of the Orange County Property Appraiser holds itself to the highest professional standards and is committed to providing a safe and productive work environment for our employees. We respect the rights of all employees and take any concerns very seriously. We look forward to presenting the facts in court in a fair and impartial manner and to vigorously defending the integrity of this office."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott told Channel 9 on Thursday that the allegations made in the lawsuit are "very serious and troubling" and that his office will review them.

Scott's office's issued the statement late Thursday afternoon. Channel 9 contacted Singh's office after it closed Thursday for a response to what Scott said.

Former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd took to Facebook on Thursday to call on Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis to investigate the suit's claims.

"Gov.-elect DeSantis needs to suspend this man from his office and conduct a thorough overhaul and investigation within the Orange County Property Appraiser's office," he said. "While the Orange County Commission is mandated to fund his budget, the manipulation of hundreds of thousands of dollars listed in this complaint, if true, is terrible, among other things."

Boyd and other commissioners in 2015 pushed for a county audit of the Orange County Property Appraiser's office.

The audit found that Singh did nothing wrong, but Boyd said the audit didn't go deep enough.

"I did everything I could to try and open up," Boyd said. "I think some people underestimate the power of the property appraiser. Every single household in Orange County is affected by the decisions that come out of that office."

Boyd said one of his biggest concerns is the lawsuit's allegation that "Singh has provided homestead exemptions, and refrained from increasing property values (thereby creating tax benefits) for his friends, certain business acquaintances and politicians who supported him during his campaign, including certain timeshare companies."

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