Saturday, June 16, 2018
News Roundup

Group says leader of transit tax campaign has a conflict of interest

Opponents of Pinellas County's transit tax referendum are calling for the resignation of the man who is leading the campaign to pass the measure, citing what they say is a conflict of interest.

Members of the conservative group Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation sent a letter on Monday to the board of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, criticizing authority chairman Ronnie Duncan for leading the advocacy campaign for the referendum. Called "Yes for Greenlight," the campaign launched last week with the goal of persuading Pinellas voters to support a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for expanded bus service and light rail.

COST spokeswoman Sharon Calvert, who also is the founder of the Tampa Tea Party, said Duncan's dual roles are unethical.

"Your public political advocacy while holding this influential leadership position on the TBARTA board seriously undermines the credibility of TBARTA," she wrote in the letter, which also was sent to Gov. Rick Scott. The governor re-appointed Duncan to the TBARTA board in 2013.

Though TBARTA's role in the referendum process has been limited to endorsing the proposal, Calvert said the situation puts Duncan in the position of serving two masters: transit advocates and the public at large.

Duncan disagreed and, in an interview on Tuesday, said the criticism was politically motivated. He said he will not resign from either TBARTA or the advocacy campaign.

TBARTA spokesman Alex English said the agency's lawyer has examined the issue and as long as Duncan is clear that he's acting as a private citizen, and not the agency's board chair, his involvement in the Yes for Greenlight campaign is legally problem-free.

"There is no conflict of interest in this matter," TBARTA lawyer Don Conn wrote in a message to the agency's board.

He added: "TBARTA is not and cannot be involved in the Greenlight campaign."

The attorney for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has given its board members similar advice, and many of them, including board chair Ken Welch, a Pinellas commissioner, and Darden Rice, a St. Petersburg City Council member, plan to be active in the Yes for Greenlight campaign.

Comments
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Times wiresVISTA, Calif. – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was jailed without bail Friday after pleading not guilty to nine counts of kidnapping, rape and other charges.If convicted on all counts, Winslow, 34, could face...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg frustrated, but optimistic

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg frustrated, but optimistic

NEW YORK — So what does the boss — lowercase, of course, around here — think of this up-and-down, hot-and-cold Rays season so far? Appropriately, a variety of things.In a 30-minute chat with the Tampa Bay Times before Friday's 5-0 l...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi pitches well against his ex-team but gets no help

Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi pitches well against his ex-team but gets no help

NEW YORK — RHP Nathan Eovaldi made an impressive return to Yankee Stadium on Friday to face his high-powered former teammates.It's too bad he didn't get any help from his current mates, in what ended up a 5-0 Rays loss.Eovaldi was in command an...
Updated: 8 hours ago
St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

ST. PETERSBURG ó Police arrested a man Friday in connection with a 31-year-old sexual assault case and believe heís connected to other unsolved cases from decades ago.Anthony Stokes, 56, faces a charge of armed sexual battery, according to St. Peters...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Interviews detail the downward spiral of the Seminole Heights killing suspect

Interviews detail the downward spiral of the Seminole Heights killing suspect

TAMPA ó One day last September, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III sat in his red Ford Mustang outside a Clearwater coffee shop."Iím just not in a good spot," he told a friend who sat beside him. "Iím going through a rough time."Matt Threadgill, his old hi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Records detail Wrigley heirís $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

Records detail Wrigley heirís $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

ODESSA ó One day in the summer of 2014, Helen Rich spotted a Facebook post about an aging black Labrador in Kansas named Lady who badly needed a new home. The author and heir to the Wrigley gum fortune had recently lost her own Black lab. Rich decide...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Just when it seemed like Florida’s unemployment rate couldn’t get lower, it did. According to the state figures out Friday, Florida’s jobless rate dipped to a near 18-year low of 3.8 percent in May after holding steady at 3.9 percen...
Updated: 9 hours ago
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG ó A house in St. Petersburgís Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTVís Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Services set for former USF, Storm lineman Kenyatta Jones

Services set for former USF, Storm lineman Kenyatta Jones

A pair of visitations and a celebration-of-life service for former Bulls OL Kenyatta "Bear" Jones have been scheduled for next week.Jones, the first USF player ever taken in the NFL draft, passed away June 9 in Colorado of cardiac arrest, according t...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Updated: 9 hours ago