Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

A dubious judicial legacy, and other Tampa tales

Tampa lawyer Laura Ward wants to be a judge. And campaigning with her in her race against former chief prosecutor Karen Stanley is her father, former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ed Ward.

Those on the campaign trail say he is everywhere. He has sent letters to legal notables, working connections. He's on her website and in her speeches. A pamphlet she leaves at voters' doors shows him smiling in what appear to be judicial robes, holding his daughter when she was little.

"Her father, retired Judge Ed Ward, raised her to respect our justice system and to treat people with fairness and equality," the pamphlet says.

What it does not say is how that judicial career of nearly two decades ended in headlines.

Ed Ward resigned in 2000 after the Judicial Qualifications Commission accused him of sexual misconduct: kissing a female judge without her consent, inviting a judicial assistant into his office for beer and sending suggestive emails to two other women.

Ward said that did not constitute sexual harassment. He resigned and agreed not to serve as a judge again. The JQC declined to pursue formal removal from the bench.

These days, he works in mediation and arbitration — and on his daughter's campaign to be where he once was.

The politics of this are interesting. Will that part of the past matter? Should it, since clearly a campaign decision was made to put him front and center as a factor for voters to consider?

His daughter the candidate says he has always been a "phenomenal father." She touts her own ethics, knowledge and hard work, and says she hopes people will see "that I've got strong support from my family and many others in the community, and I am running on my own integrity and merit."

A transportation slam: This week, a hotel developer and frequent flier called Tampa out for having taxis akin to pigsties. Deplorable, said Lou Plasencia. Embarrassing.

This matters for a city on the alleged move. Cab rides can make a town, or at least an impression. I recall faux fur across the dashboard in New Orleans, a Manhattan cabbie deliberately ramming a car that cut us off and a ride to the Key West airport seated next to the driver's golden retriever.

The Tampa slam is also bad news for the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission under fire for legitimate questions about its necessity. This could give legislative efforts to gut it for the greater good — excuse the expression — gas.

Tampa is enjoying a downtown hotel boom — elegant Le Meridien in the old federal courthouse, this week the sleek Aloft, reborn from a dreary office that blocked the river, a building the mayor called not just ugly but "butt ugly." No more.

Not to nitpick, but whither that rooftop bar that was talked about? We've been spoiled by the Birchwood's glorious water views in St. Petersburg and the Epicurean's high slice of Hyde Park.

Turns out the old building would have required alterations too expensive and cumbersome to hold up all those people and their cucumber-kale martinis. Still, enthusiasts tout all the hipsters to gather at the wide bar downstairs with its tall windows facing the pool and the river beyond it.

I had a look, and yep, turns out it's another one of those views we didn't even know we had.

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