07/24/17 Local Government
The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.
Without that bridge loan, the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board is projected to go broke in February and shutdown, said interim executive director Gay Lancaster.
ST. PETERSBURG — A state report places much of the blame for the city's 200-million gallon sewage spill crisis on the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman.
The 7-page draft report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, does not name Kriseman or any of his staff. It also starts with the long view, blaming two decades of city leadership for setting the stage for St. Petersburg's massive sewage problems....
ST. PETERSBURG — The city has put the legal fallout from the sewage crisis behind it.
Last week, St. Petersburg officials learned that the criminal investigation into the crisis — the city dumped up to 200 million gallons of waste from 2015-16 — would not result in any city employees facing charges.
07/19/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER –– After another year of growth, Pinellas County commissioners won't have to fight to pay for critical needs in the 2017-2018 budget.
Higher property values brought in an additional $77 million over the prior year. But that won't lead to a spending frenzy.
07/18/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER –– Pinellas' elected officials on Tuesday unanimously voted to appoint the chief assistant county attorney to the top legal job in county government.
The new Pinellas County Attorney is Jewel White, who replaces her former boss, ex-county attorney Jim Bennett. He retired in May after three decades of service.
07/18/17 Local Government
LARGO –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board was visited by a special guest on Tuesday: Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe.
It's not often that a prosecutor investigating a public agency stops by a meeting of its governing board to tell them he plans to empanel a grand jury next week to investigate their past management, operations and practices.
"When it will end, I don't know," McCabe told the board. "We might call on some of you to go before the grand jury."...
07/14/17 Local Government
Whenever homeowners were fleeced out of their money by unlicensed contractors, the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board was once considered consumers' first line of defense.
It shouldn't have been. The troubled agency was ineffective against unlicensed contractors.
But jilted homeowners have another option: The Pinellas County Consumer Protection department works with prosecutors to bring criminal charges against the worst offenders and help homeowners recoup their losses....
07/11/17 Local Government
LARGO –– Pinellas County's 12 elected leaders will perform a first on Tuesday: They will conduct public interviews of the four candidates vying to lead the Pinellas County Attorney's Office.
07/11/17 Local Government
LARGO –– Pinellas County sheriff's deputies could soon start hunting for unlicensed contractors who skirt licensing laws and bilk homeowners out of thousands of dollars by performing unfinished and shoddy work.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday that he plans to develop a pilot program so that his deputies can help the troubled Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board crack down on unlicensed contractors....
The 2018 primary election is 14 months away, but a crowded field of Republicans has already emerged to replace longtime Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni.
So far, the District 6 race, which generally includes Pinellas Park, Seminole, northeast St. Petersburg and the south beaches, has attracted two state lawmakers and a community activist who helped defeat a transportation sales tax in 2014....
Political leaders talk about regionalism, but the synergy between Pinellas and Hillsborough leaders isn't exactly gushing into Tampa Bay.
Consider the recent jockeying by Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long to get Hillsborough County commissioners to hold two joint meetings to discuss the region's biggest issues. Long wants t public officials to talk about sewers, transportation and other problems that cross county lines....
06/28/17 Local Government
Tampa Bay political leaders often tout taking a regional approach to solve the area's most pressing issues. But the challenge has been getting Hillsborough County and Pinellas County leaders together on the same page.
Or in this case, in the same room.
Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Janet Long has been jockeying behind the scenes to schedule a joint meeting of both county commissions to discuss transportation and infrastructure problems — issues that cross county lines....
06/27/17 Local Government
The unlicensed contractor accused of faking his death to avoid angry homeowners has triggered an immediate change in policy at the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.
On Monday, the agency's interim executive director Gay Lancaster said the agency will acknowledge to consumers that they have received their complaint within one business day. That will also start the clock for conducting investigations sooner, she added....
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....