Former clerk Thompson owed $82,500 in fees
By Fallan Patterson
Special to the News-Gazette
Former Osceola Clerk of Court Malcom Thompson “closed a chapter” last month when current Clerk Armando Ramirez was forced to pay him $82,500 to cover legal fees incurred from back-to-back trials in 2012.
Thompson claimed he was entitled to the court costs reimbursement because he successfully fought the assault and battery cases brought against him by his employees last year and won a Florida Commission on Ethics violation claim.
Thompson declined to comment, deferring instead to his attorney, Stewart Cohen, who called the cases “an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money.”
“It doesn’t make him whole but the law is clear in this matter,” Cohen said. “I think Mr. Ramirez did the responsible thing and resolved this.”
Thompson sued Ramirez for the money after the current clerk refused to pay the court costs due to “complexity of the law” interpreted by his former attorney, said Adam Alvarez, Ramirez’s general counsel and the spokesman for the clerk’s office.
Ramirez beat Thompson in the Democratic primary for the Clerk’s Office last year.
The law allows elected officials to recoup legal fees if they successfully fight them off.
The payment was negotiated between Thompson and Ramirez in order to keep either party from incurring additional court costs, Alvarez said.
“Based on the advice of previous counsel, Mr. Thompson’s demands for the reimbursement of the legal fees was not paid due to the complexity of the legal issues and the non-clarity of the law,” he said. “A strategy of research and negotiation was chosen as a preferred method to handle Mr. Thompson’s claim.”
Thompson paid at least $82,500 defending himself last year against two misdemeanor charges brought by several female employees.
One woman claimed Thompson shoved her into his office door jamb after an argument about when to remove holiday cards from his office door. A jury acquitted him after deliberating for less than an hour.
Another female employee brought an assault charge against Thompson, claiming he put his finger in her face and screamed at her during a discussion about the battery charge.
That same employee filed the ethics complaint against Thompson regarding the same incident. Thompson was not found to have been in violation.
Cohen called all of the claims against Thompson “frivolous” but added this judgment “closed a chapter” in his client’s life.
“We’re grateful but we’re extremely sorry the taxpayer was put to this expense,” he said. “It was terrible experience for him to go through. We all know, as Shakespeare said, it was ‘much ado about nothing.’”