Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Grand jury: state senator 'was actively advocating' for billboard company

State Sen. Greg Evers "was actively advocating" on behalf of a billboard company that had been talking about hiring his wife when he intervened with the state Department of Transportation about cutting down 2,000 trees, according to a grand jury report released Tuesday.

The Leon County grand jury, which subpoenaed Evers and other officials, did not indict anyone in the billboard investigation. But its report found that Evers' intervention on behalf of Bill Salter Advertising enabled the company to "secure permits by circumventing the law."

Evers, R-Baker, contended the grand jury report vindicated him, and complained that a reporter had picked out only "lewd things" from the report to emphasize. "A jury of my peers found I didn't do anything wrong," he said.

In 2009, Bill Salter Advertising wanted DOT permits to cut down more than 2,000 trees blocking the view of about 100 of its signs along Interstate 10 through the Florida Panhandle. Some of the trees were classified as "heritage oaks," said Bill Brinton, of the antibillboard group Scenic America, who later filed a complaint with the DOT.

Normally the state DOT requires payment as compensation for the loss of trees on state-owned property. But Salter did not want to pay the state for those trees. DOT records show that Salter executive David McCurdy sought help from Evers, who sat on the House Transportation Committee.

Although Evers told an investigator that his assistance was a typical attempt to help a constituent, the grand jury noted that he and McCurdy had gone to high school together. The grand jury report also noted that "Senator Evers' wife, who is an attorney, was consulted by Salter Advertising about representing the company on some legal matters."

Evers said McCurdy was two or three years behind him in school, and said his wife was never hired nor paid by the billboard company.

"My wife is approached by a lot of folks," he said.

He said his one complaint about what happened was that "a bunch of things were misrepresented to me" by Salter Advertising. "Sometimes when you get a request from a constituent, sometimes they're overzealous and you may not get all the facts."

Evers said he only asked DOT officials to return McCurdy's phone calls. Reminded that the records show he helped set up a meeting with Crist administration DOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos, Evers said she just happened to be in his office on another matter "and I said, 'Have you called this man back? You should call him back.'"

So Koupelousas met with Salter executives, and at that meeting, "They agreed and we were granted these permits," McCurdy wrote later in an e-mail. An internal DOT e-mail noted that after the meeting Evers set up, Kopelousos "gave them the go ahead for cutting these sites."

As a result, the grand jury found, the DOT "failed to collect between $1 million and $4 million in mitigation fees" for the loss of those trees. The grand jury urged the billboard company to pay the money voluntarily.

Evers said he would do the same things all over again should the situation arise. He said he had no quarrel with the grand jury findings: "They got to the bottom of the whole barrel of rocks."

Grand jury: state senator 'was actively advocating' for billboard company 01/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 2:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. North Korea denies torturing American detainee Otto Warmbier (w/video)


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Friday denied it cruelly treated or tortured an American student who was detained for more than year and died days after being released in a coma.

    Mourners line the street after the funeral of Otto Warmbier, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Wyoming, Ohio. Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student who was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea, died this week, days after returning to the United States. [Associated Press]
  2. Johnny Depp jokes about assassinating President Trump at Glastonbury Festival (w/video)


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp has asked a crowd at the Glastonbury Festival when was the last time an actor assassinated a president. The remarks came during a segment Thursday in which Depp was speaking about President Donald Trump.

    Actor Johnny Depp introduces a film at the Glastonbury music festival at Worthy Farm, in Somerset, England, Thursday, June 22, 2017. [Grant Pollard | Invision/AP]
  3. Morning after off day: Rays ready for slumping O's



  4. Florida education news: Charter schools, traveling man, lunch prices and more


    #HB7069: Now that it's law, HB 7069 has a new target on its back: Will it be challenged in court? Broward County Democrat Sen. Gary Farmer says he's doing all he can "to …

    Thousands of children attend Florida charter schools, which are growing in number and now stand to receive capital projects local tax revenue.
  5. Forecast: Hot, humid and mostly dry conditions prevail for St. Pete Pride weekend


    The threat of any lingering effects from Tropical Storm Cindy have passed, leaving behind a relatively dry — but hot and humid — St. Pete Pride weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast [WTSP]