St. Petersburg police investigating why civilian employees accidentally fired AR-15 semiautomatic rifle inside HQ06/23/17 Blog
ST. PETERSBURG — An internal police investigation is looking into two civilian employees who accidentally fired a round from an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle inside St. Petersburg Police Department headquarters.
Police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez confirmed that the incident is being looked at by the department's Office of Professional Standards. Those investigators are trying to find out why the employees brought the rifle — which was a personal weapon, not department-issued — into the building. The department will not release any details about the incident, she said, including when it took place or the identities of the two employees until the investigation is completed....
06/23/17 Human Interest
SEMINOLE — For weeks, Glenn Holland, 67, crawled out of bed before the sun rose to look for a dead man.
The retiree and Vietnam veteran spent several weeks on stakeout in his Ford F-150. Under the cover of darkness, he waited outside the home of a man he was told had died in a car crash.
For weeks, neither the Corvette, Hummer or pick-up truck in the driveway moved.
Holland nearly gave up. He waited one last time. It was 4 a.m. on a Friday in March....
As Pinellas County's 12 elected leaders work to select a new legal adviser, one of the five candidates under consideration withdrew from the hiring process.
Drew Atkinson, 44, the general counsel at the Florida Department of Management Services, notified county leaders Wednesday that he was withdrawing his application to lead the Pinellas County Attorney's Office. That leaves four candidates vying for the post, which pays more than $215,000 a year....
06/15/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER — The committee of Pinellas elected leaders tasked with hiring a new county attorney said Thursday the old one has left them in a bit of a bind.
The Pinellas County Attorney Oversight Committee — comprised of seven county commissioners and five constitutional officers with the power to hire and fire the county attorney — finalized a list of five candidates who are being considered to replace departing county attorney Jim Bennett....
06/14/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER –– After nine years as the Pinellas County Attorney, Jim Bennett is no longer advising county leaders. He left his post May 27 and is collecting unused vacation until he retires July 5.
Jewel White, Bennett's chief assistant attorney since 2014, now leads the office.
"He's gone, " Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long said. "He is taking his vacation time. I'm fine with that."...
06/13/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER — The grim financial future of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board will continue to linger until authorities finish a sweeping investigation of the agency.
The Pinellas County Commission said during Tuesday's budget hearing that it would not loan the agency any money until it knows how much it actually needs to stay afloat beyond February 2018....
CLEARWATER –– The future of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board could hang on whether the Pinellas County Commission loans the troubled agency taxpayer money.
As the licensing board is projected to go broke in February, it will likely ask commissioners today for a bailout during a budget hearing.
But that could be a tough sell. Four commissioners told the Tampa Bay Times last week that they had concerns about lending taxpayer dollars to an agency with no government oversight and under a grand jury investigation. Those commissioners said the agency should ask the state for a loan....
06/09/17 Local Government
LARGO — Already saddled with controversy and a grand jury investigation, the latest budget projections paint a grim picture for the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board:
The agency will go broke in February.
The independent agency, created by the Florida Legislature in 1973 to crack down on bad contractors in the county, has siphoned $400,000 from reserves just to stay open. Meanwhile it's down to 1½ inspectors (one is part-time) and isn't issuing — or collecting — enough fines to stay solvent....
06/07/17 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is often closed due to high winds. But someone wants to close it for a different reason: so thousands of runners can run a half marathon across the iconic bridge on New Year's Day.
A Bradenton company is working to win approval from local and state agencies to shut the bridge down between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Jan. 1 so joggers can run north to the top of the bridge as the sun rises over Tampa Bay....
TAMPA — After a nationwide search, Tampa General Hospital had to go only 200 miles to find its next president and chief executive officer.
The hospital announced Monday that John D. Couris, a hospital executive from Jupiter with a decade of high-level experience in Pinellas and Pasco counties, will become its new leader in September.
Pinellas sheriff says construction board never asked for help cracking down on unlicensed contractors06/05/17 Local Government
While homeowners continue to fall prey to unlicensed contractors, the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board can't do much to stop violators. The agency is down to one part-time investigator. It also doesn't have the power to enforce the law or collect unpaid fines.
The problem has gotten so bad, according to licensing board officials, that the troubled agency wants backup: the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office....
Pinellas construction board is supposed to catch unlicensed contractors, but missed the illegal work at its own HQ06/01/17 Local Government
LARGO –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board routinely catches hundreds of contractors working without permits. But there was an instance when the agency failed to catch a scofflaw –– at their own doorstep.
In December 2014, workers installed electronic signs and awnings around the licensing board complex on Belcher Road. One sign was installed directly over the entrance of the agency that's supposed to be on the lookout for illegal contracting....
In some ways, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe runs his office like a business, setting money aside in case of a rainy day.
But McCabe and other top prosecutors across the state could lose $10 million in extra revenue as part of the Legislature's $542.3 million raid on a wide range of trust funds.
So Florida prosecutors are urging Gov. Rick Scott to whip out his veto pen and wipe out that plan....
Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval05/26/17 Local Government
By Mark Puente
Times Staff Writer
Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.
A panel of experts reviewed the evidence and ruled in her favor. The contractor faced a fine and possible license suspension.
That's when Rodney Fischer stepped in. ...
05/25/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER — While Pinellas beaches continually rank among the best in America, they need help to stay that way.
The county has landed $30 million to complete renourishment projects at three popular beaches.
The funding for the Pinellas County Shore Protection Project will go toward about 10.5 miles of work at Sand Key, Upham Beach and Treasure Island. The federal projects are administered by the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers....