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Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Steve Contorno

Steve Contorno is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times covering Hillsborough County. He previously worked for PolitiFact in the Times Washington, D.C. bureau. Prior to joining the Times, he covered Congress and Virginia politics for the Washington Examiner as well as state and local governments in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of the Chicago suburbs, Steve graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a minor in political science, and holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he covered the Illinois legislature for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Phone: (813) 226-3433

Email: [email protected]

The Contorno file:

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. Update: Ethics investigator finds no probable cause in Go Hillsborough contract complaint


    TAMPA — A state ethics investigation has found no probable cause to the complaints accusing Hillsborough County officials of steering a transportation contract to a politically connected firm.

    The recommendation from investigator Melody Hadley from the Office of the Attorney General was included in a letter informing county commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman that after two years the ethics board would finally hear their case on Oct. 20....

    Florida Commission on Ethics will hear complaints next month against Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, as well as Commissioner Sandy Murman.
  2. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree


    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    In Hillsborough County, that depends on whom you ask.

    County Administrator Mike Merrill says he alone can call for an evacuation, and that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was out of line when he announced that some city residents needed to leave their homes two days before Hurricane Irma's approach. Buckhorn disagrees....

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  3. Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter thanks his former dance instructor from Tampa in touching tribute (w/ video)


    TAMPA -- Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter appeared at a meeting of the Hillsborough County commission on Wednesday.

    Tell me why.

    County commissioners presented a commendation Wednesday morning to Sandy Karl, a local dance instructor retiring after 45 years in business. Along with her late husband, Karl owned the Karl and DiMarco School of Dance in Tampa.

    And before he was a “Larger Than Life” popstar, Ruskin native Nick Carter was Karl’s student....

    During a Hillsborough County Commission meeting, Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys appeared via video to thanks local dance instructor Sandy Karl, who retired after 45 years in the business.
  4. Tampa Electric rules, Duke Energy drools, Hillsborough commissioners declare


    TAMPA — The pile on of Duke Energy continued Wednesday in Hillsborough County, where commissioners boasted how quickly most of their constituents had power after Hurricane Irma.

    During a debriefing of the storm’s aftermath, commissioners repeatedly praised the response from Tampa Electric, the electric utility for most Hillsborough residents. About 300,000 of Tampa Electric’s Hillsborough customers lost power at some point during the storm and nearly all had power restored in less than a week....

    Duke Energy workers cut tree limbs off a power line on Sept. 11 following Hurricane Irma.
  5. Hillsborough okays $1.25 million in Hurricane Irma-related spending with more to come


    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners approved $1.25 million in expenses related to Hurricane Irma on Wednesday with many more costs expected to come.

    The county will spend $750,000 on overtime for employees who worked throughout the storm and another $500,000 for disaster-related emergency equipment.

    The money was pulled from a $3 million fund set aside for emergencies. It doesn’t cover other expenses from the aftermath of the storm like debris pickup, flooding and damage....

    The overflowing Alafia River, swollen by rains from Hurricane Irma, caused massive flooding near Lithia Pinecrest Road. On Wednesday, Hillsborough County approved $1.25 million in Irma-related spending.
  6. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    Between Sept. 3 and Sept. 9, county hotels actually saw a 10 percent increase in revenue over the same period last year, according to Visit Tampa Bay, the tourism promotion agency for Hillsborough.

    And when the numbers are tallied, Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada doesn't believe Irma's pass through the bay area will have much of an impact on tourist development taxes collected on each night's stay at a hotel....

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  7. Members divided by Southern heritage advocate's inclusion on Hillsborough diversity council


    TAMPA — A council tasked with promoting diversity in Hillsborough County has been roiled by the recent appointment of the leader of a Southern heritage group.

    Since the selection of David McCallister, commander of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans, to the Diversity Advisory Council, the head of the committee stepped down and another member resigned. Two more symbolically quit in protest just as their terms ended....

  8. Second person resigns from Hillsborough diversity council after Confederate activist appointed


    TAMPA — A second person has resigned symbolically from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the appointment of a known activist of Confederate causes to the panel. 

    In a letter to the county, Gary Howell, the director of practicum training & associate professor at Florida School of Professional Psychology, said he was stepping down after three years on the council, most recently as vice chair. Howell called the appointment of David McCallister to the diversity council " inconsiderate, disrespectful, and inappropriate," especially after the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee....

    Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
  9. Rays unlikely to make ballpark decision until after St. Pete mayoral race


    Here’s a nugget in today’s story about Tampa’s efforts to lure the Tampa Bay Rays that shouldn’t be overlooked:

    People close to the negotiations don’t believe the Rays are going to announce whether they’re moving during the St. Petersburg mayoral race....

    The Tampa Bay Rays are unlikely to make a decision on whether the team will leave Tropicana Field until after the St. Petersburg mayoral election, people close to the negotiations believe.
  10. Tampa officials focusing on Channel District-Ybor for potential Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Officials trying to lure the Tampa Bay Rays across the water are aggressively working to secure a site for a ballpark in the Channel District-Ybor City area, and hope to make an announcement soon.

    Hillsborough County and its lawyers have had dozens of conversations this year with the Rays, its financing team at Goldman Sachs and Populous, the architect for the new ballpark, according to legal records. They've discussed financing options, reviewed sites and compared economic development proposals....

    As recently as late July, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said the team was waiting for Tampa and Hillsborough County to present a viable option and challenged them to "completely weigh in." [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  11. Appointment of Confederate activist sparks diversity council chair to resign


    The head of a Hillsborough County committee that promotes diversity resigned from the panel Wednesday after county commissioners named to the committee an advocate of Confederate heritage.

    In a letter to the county administration, council chairman Nestor Ortiz said he was "shocked by the decision" to appoint David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp, to the Diversity Advisory Council....

    David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.
  12. In one day, fundraisers reach goal to move Confederate monument from downtown Tampa


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners gave an ultimatum to the people who want a Confederate monument moved from downtown Tampa: Raise half the money yourselves or it stays. You have 30 days.

    It took 24 hours.

    A campaign to relocate the statue topped $180,000 by Thursday afternoon, well past the $140,000 goal, confirmed Tom Scarritt, the Tampa lawyer who organized the effort. ...

     Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, left, and former owner of the Tampa Bay Storm, Bob Gries, spoke to the media about Gries' $50 thousand donation towards removing a Confederate monument in Tampa on August 17, 2017 at Tampa City Hall, in Tampa, Fla.  The Hillsborough County commissioners gave an ultimatum on Wednesday, raise half of the cost to move the statue or it stays. Donations collected on Thursday appear to meet the $140 thousand goal.
  13. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn donates $1,000 to move Confederate monument


    TAMPA — The fundraising effort to remove a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa has tripled its haul since Hillsborough County commissioners tied the statue’s fate to the success of the campaign.

    Count Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn among the latest donors.

    On Thursday morning Buckhorn posted to social media a picture of a signed check from him for $1,000 to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners....

    A check from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for $1,000 to remove the Confederate monument from downtown Tampa.
  14. Tampa investor gives $50,000 to move Confederate monument, Buckhorn donates $1,000


    TAMPA — Donations to remove a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa have skyrocketed since Hillsborough County commissioners tied the statue’s fate to the success of the campaign, including a $5,000 donation from former Tampa Bay Bucaneers coach Tony Dungy and one $50,000 donation from a local businessman.

    Dungy tweeted that he and his wife Lauren were giving $5,000 to the fundraising efforts and he was challenging "Bucs Rays Lightning to help!" ...

    A check from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for $1,000 to remove the Confederate monument from downtown Tampa.
  15. After monument vote, Confederate activist named to Hillsborough County diversity council


    TAMPA — Moments after Hillsborough County commissioners made uncertain a previous decision to move Tampa's Confederate monument, they voted to put the area's most vocal advocate of Confederate causes on a citizen committee to promote diversity. 

    Four of six commissioners present nominated David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp, to be the representative of Northern & Southern Europe on the county's Diversity Advisory Council. ...

    David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.