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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas to take up Roche, lot clearing and roles Tuesday



Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche's actions to have debris and overgrowth reduced at a vacant home is expected to trigger some debate Tuesday. The commission already has a day-long strategic planning session scheduled, but Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala scheduled a meeting afterward on spending practices.

Among outstanding questions and issues:

Where to commissioners' roles stop and County Administrator Bob LaSala's begin? And how should commissioners use their county purchasing cards, which are like credit cards? Latvala said she hopes Roche reimburses the spending, but Roche declined to give a response to her comments, though he defended his actions.

Besides lawn work, Roche spent $2,605 at a consignment shop for his office furniture in February. He said it came after furniture from defeated Commissioner Calvin Harris' office wouldn't work, surplus furniture wasn't available and he turned down LaSala's offer to buy furniture. LaSala did not recall that. Most recent commissioners did not buy furniture, although former Commissioner Ronnie Duncan spent $4,000 by going through the purchasing department for furniture, records show.

Given that Pinellas already has a contractor, how did Roche choose the company he did? The company he hired operates as Pinellas Lawns,, over the web, although owner Manuel Salazar did not return a call seeking comment. The company essentially does work in north Pinellas, and is licensed and insured. Though its listed under Pinellas Lawns by the Better Business Bureau, Pinellas Lawns is not an official business name, according to the site. Roche paid Salazar through PayPal, records show.

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 8:07am]


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