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....
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."...