Judge Laurel Lee, wife of Sen. Tom Lee, asked to recuse herself from transportation tax lawsuit
Tom and Laurel Lee prepare for their next chapter as she becomes Secretary of State

Tom and Laurel Lee

Judge Laurel Lee, wife of Florida State Sen. Tom Lee, has been asked to recuse herself in the lawsuit seeking to overturn the Hillsborough transportation sales tax voters approved last month.

Sen. Lee has been a vocal critic of the sales tax, giving his wife an apparent conflict of interest in the case.

A defendant in the lawsuit filed a motion to disqualify the assigned judge late Monday afternoon.

The documents are still being redacted by Hillsborough County Clerk of Court staff so further details are unavailable at this time.

The motion likely references Sen. Lee’s connections to the opposition group No Tax For Tracks. He allowed his likeness and personal quotes to be used in campaign mailers opposing the tax. Lee’s name was also used in text messages urging voters to oppose the tax.

Further, Lee’s senatorial campaign received several contributions from Martin Garcia and his business over the past several years. Garcia is one of two attorneys representing Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White who filed the lawsuit.

The suit alleges the new county charter created to raise the tax is in violation of state statute, which supersedes county charter. White argues the conflict leaves him uncertain as to his duties to follow state law in violation of county charter, or county charter in violation of state law.

At issue is the citizen-led oversight committee established under the charter that allows an unelected group of Hillsborough residents to have veto power over elected boards on spending using the transportation tax revenue.

Under the charter, that oversight committee is tasked with reviewing project plans to ensure they are consistent with terms of the charter. The referendum authors, a group of private Hillsborough Citizens who gathered more than 70,000 petitions to get the measure on the November ballot, said the oversight committee’s intent is to ensure the tax does not turn into a slush fund for elected officials’ pet projects.

In an interview, Lee acknowledged that he was opposed to the tax but was unaware of any financial contributions or expenditures that could further pose a conflict of interest for his wife.

This is a breaking story. Please check back for further information.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn