Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando commissioner criticizes head of Aviation Authority for 'bully tactics'

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Commissioner Diane Rowden on Tuesday blasted the chairman of the county's Aviation Authority, saying he was trying to discredit the county administrator "with distortions and innuendos.''

Gary Schraut has been using "bully tactics,'' including shouting at commissioners during a recent meeting and "distorting the facts to match his agenda,'' Rowden told commissioners.

Rowden, the commission's liaison to the Aviation Authority, cited an email Schraut sent commissioners Monday. In the email, Schraut implied County Administrator Len Sossamon has been circumventing normal procedures at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport to promote the business of an old associate and political supporter in Concord, N.C., a marketing consultant named Gary Walker.

Rowden said she, not Sossamon, had invited Walker to explore a business opportunity at the Hernando airport. The large business that Walker represented ultimately decided not to relocate to Hernando County.

One official from the company commented afterward that "we candidly didn't know what to make of what appeared to be a 'not interested' sign on the county's part,'' Rowden said.

Walker, who knows Sossamon because he was formerly Concord's city manager, never had a contract or agreement with Hernando County or the airport.

Schraut's email also tied Sossamon to a series of controversies at the airport that resulted in negative publicity. The administrator began "working behind the scenes on May 10th to orchestrate these problems,'' Schraut wrote.

That email came a day after the Tampa Bay Times published a story in which Sossamon criticized Schraut's handling of airport issues, including the county's purchase of the old Brooksville Air Center site.

Sossamon questioned Schraut's and airport officials' diligence on that purchase. He said Schraut needed to realize he is the chairman of an advisory committee and that the County Commission has the final say on airport issues. He said Schraut, a well-connected local Realtor, needs to "put on his big-boy pants and suck it up.''

Responding to a resident who congratulated Sossamon for standing up to Schraut, Sossamon said Tuesday that he was frustrated by several issues at the airport and had added "more color than I normally do'' in a conversation with a Times reporter.

He apologized to anyone he might have offended.

But Rowden said she believes that Schraut "is the root cause of the controversy and upheaval at the airport."

Schraut "is not the solution. He is the problem,'' she said, suggesting the problem needs to be handled by the County Commission.

Longtime Schraut ally Commission Chairman Dave Russell came to his defense, saying Schraut, a 20-plus-year member of the Aviation Authority, "should be commended'' for his work at the airport.

Schraut could not be reached for comment.


Police: 2 IEDs detonated at a Florida mall, no injuries

LAKE WALES — Police say two improvised explosive devices ignited inside a mall in central Florida on Sunday do not appear to be an act of terrorism.Lake Wales police Deputy Chief Troy Schulze tells news outlets that at 5:22 p.m., the Lake Wales Fire ...
Updated: 18 minutes ago

The Daystarter: Women’s March returns to St. Petersburg; PolitiFact Florida analyzes prison costs; Free dental clinic services in high demand; Arrrrr you ready for Gasparilla?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• We’ll have a mild and sunny start to the week, with highs in the upper 70s, according to 10Weather WTSP. A weak cold front brings a chance of rain on Tuesday and slightly coo...
Updated: 9 hours ago
PolitiFact Florida: Claims about prison price-gouging decry $17 soup, $18 tampons

PolitiFact Florida: Claims about prison price-gouging decry $17 soup, $18 tampons

Advocates of Florida prisoners protested outside of the Florida Department of Corrections in Tallahassee on Tuesday, demanding answers to questions of alleged price-gouging in prisons across the state.Protesters from dozens of grass roots organizatio...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Hooper: Deal with sea-level rise or prepare to be inundated

When fans again flock to Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard for the annual Gasparilla Festival on Saturday, I hope they ask a question: Will the floats need flotation devices in 2035?Erika Spanger-Siegfried, Astrid Caldas and Kate Cell, members of the Union ...
Published: 01/22/18
Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

CHICAGO — It didn’t take the sound of a door slamming in the visitor’s dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay believed it had worked hard against the Wild — at least, harder than it did in Thursday’s letharg...
Updated: 6 hours ago

nationResearchers work to avoid another 1918 super-flu The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after on...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Hillsborough diver who died in Eagle’s Nest Cave was adventurous but experienced

Davin Brannon was a pilot, a spearfisherman, an avid cave and open-water diver and an experienced all-around adventurer, said those close to him ."I guess you could say he died doing what he loved," his cousin Pam Kirven said. "But I also know he’d n...
Updated: 7 hours ago
‘Three Billboards’ sweeps female-focused SAG Awards

‘Three Billboards’ sweeps female-focused SAG Awards

LOS ANGELES — The Western-inspired revenge tale Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri swept the female-focused and led Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday with wins for best ensemble, best actress for Frances McDormand and best supporting actor for...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Shutdown opens week

Shutdown opens week

Associated PressWASHINGTON — The government shutdown will extend into the workweek as the Senate appeared to inch closer to ending a partisan stalemate late Sunday but fell short of agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than in any other year on record, leaving the state scrambling to identify causes and find solutions. The tally, 428 inmate deaths in 2017, was released late Friday by the Florida Department of Correctio...
Updated: 8 hours ago