Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas leaders heap praise on County Attorney Jewel White

CLEARWATER — The first public job review of County Attorney Jewel White became a laudatory meeting that brought the chief lawyer a 3 percent pay raise.

The Pinellas County Attorney Oversight Committee, composed of the seven county commissioners and five constitutional officers, conducted its first review of White after appointing her to replace her former boss, Jim Bennett, who retired in May after three decades.

Before spending 30 minutes going through a slide show of her office, White described her hiring as "a very wise decision" by the elected officials. For the past several months, White said, she has been meeting with officials and other agency leaders to gauge any deficiencies in legal services.

"The entire management of the office has changed," she said. "Everybody either has a new role or a new manager."

White’s shuffling of the office deck included promoting several lawyers to managers and shifting others to represent different agencies and departments. Other changes include creating new performance reviews for employees and updating the office’s policy manual.

"It really needs to be brought into the 21st century," said White, whose salary was about $213,000.

White did bring some baggage to the job after having such close ties to Bennett. Three commissioners, Charlie Justice, John Morroni and Dave Eggers, asked White whether she improved how the office responded to media requests. White said she has done that but hasn’t crafted a new policy.

"I think there’s been a lot of new energy over in that office," Morroni said.

Clerk of Courts Ken Burke thanked White for her work, but also encouraged her and her staff to be more proactive in notifying elected officials about national legal trends that could impact Pinellas County.

"Don’t be afraid to contact the constitutionals," Burke told White.

Until November 2016, county commissioners had the sole authority over the county attorney.

Voters approved a charter amendment to create the Pinellas County Attorney Oversight Committee to change the way the county picks its top legal adviser. In addition to commissioners, the committee includes the sheriff, clerk of the court, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and tax collector.

Before Bennett retired, several perks that he had in his contract drew ire with several commissioners: He belonged to the state pension system, but since 2008 the county also contributed $201,000 to his tax-deferred personal retirement account on top of that pension. His contract also called for a $9,000-a-year car allowance — or $750 a month. That’s an extra $66,000 Bennett has received since 2008.

White landed similar perks: She gets a $500 car allowance each month, and taxpayers will contribute $18,000 annually to her tax-deferred personal retirement account on top of her pension. None of the officials asked about the perks.

Commission Chairwoman Janet Long negotiated the contract and said the perks are similar to what White could command in private practice. Long also negotiated to delay White’s 3 percent raise that other employees received in October.

The committee voted unanimously Tuesday to award the raise, boosting White’s pay to about $220,000 annually.

Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.

Comments
Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final last season, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Eight passengers who were aboard a Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of its engines blew apart filed suit Wednesday against the airline, Boeing and the companies that manufactured the eng...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Tesla sued a former employee Wednesday, accusing the man of hacking the automaker’s computer systems and stealing company secrets, shedding light on what chief Elon Musk had suggested was the work of a secretive internal saboteur.But the employee, Ma...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

CLEARWATER —The city’s proposed $79.7 million overhaul of the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facilities depends on getting $40 million in bed taxes from Pinellas County.But records show even if county officials wanted to bankroll the Phillies...
Updated: 5 hours ago