Friday, July 20, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando officials depart after county settles case with road contractor

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has reached a settlement with the contractor on the botched Osowaw Boulevard road project, and two top officials in the county's Department of Public Works have resigned, including County Engineer Mark Guttman.

Another lead inspector in the department also left his job last week over a separate investigation into his vehicle usage.

Last month, the County Commission offered contractor B.R.W. Contracting Inc. of Land O'Lakes a settlement of $250,000 but declined other provisions the company was seeking, including not placing blame on the company for its part in the work on Osowaw, which gave it a poor driving quality. Local residents compared it to driving on a wavy washboard.

The county had hired B.R.W. in February 2015 for $571,979 to build bike lanes and a sidewalk and to do a paving overlay on Osowaw. The company sued the county in May 2016 for breach of contract and sought $281,269 in money it said the county still owed. B.R.W. claimed that the county's design and specifications were flawed. The contractor also had problems on several other major road projects in the county, including falling behind and using inferior materials.

Hernando County had barred B.R.W. from bidding on projects for the past two years. The company had asked to be allowed to bid on projects again as part of its settlement proposal, but the county did not include that in its counteroffer. On July 25, the contractor signed the paperwork accepting strictly the cash settlement.

Last week, County Administrator Len Sossamon issued termination letters to both Guttman and project manager Al Toler, informing each that "information was disclosed during a recent lawsuit that has resulted in the county having a lack of confidence in you performing your duties."

The letter cited the Code of Conduct provision, which states: "Employees will not act in any manner that may discredit Hernando County government, its public officials, fellow employees or themselves." Citing a separate code that details when employee discipline is called for, the provision states, "(when) the employee is consistently incompetent or inefficient in the performance of his duty. This may include wanton or willful neglect."

More specific details about their actions were not released.

While the notice indicated immediate termination, both Guttman and Toler opted to resign immediately. Guttman had been employed by the county since November 2011 and earned an annual salary of $84,822. Toler was a longtime county worker, having started in December 1990. His annual salary was $55,536.

Gary Miller, a lead inspector for Public Works who had been with the county since October 1988, was also given notice Aug. 3 that he had violated county employee policy after a review of his vehicle and cellphone usage and would be terminated immediately. His annual salary was $58,843.

Provisions of county employee policy cited in Miller's case were, "non-scheduled absence from his/her work schedule and/or location, unauthorized presence in non-job-related areas of Hernando County, projection of a negative image of Hernando County through actions and/or comments which may be detrimental to the operations of the organization (and) falsification of any records including time records for oneself or another employee."

Cellphone records showed a significant number of calls had been redacted from the phone's record, and county staffers noted that it was assumed those were personal in nature. Only limited use of cellphones is allowed for personal calls.

Records also showed excessive idling periods of Miller's county vehicle "adjacent to vacant tracts, rural tracts or property in public ownership with no apparent work reason to be at the locations for an extended period of time."

Miller did not sign a resignation letter after receiving the notice of termination, signed by Sossamon.

Comments
At least 11 dead after Missouri duck boat sinks; search for 5 resumes

At least 11 dead after Missouri duck boat sinks; search for 5 resumes

Authorities say 11 people died after a duck boat carrying about 31 passengers capsized and sank Thursday on Table Rock Lake near the tourist town of Branson, Missouri.Some of the dead passengers were children, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader told rep...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Inside a suicide hotline center; St. Petersburg residents storm city council with allegations; should Rays trade Chris Archer?

The Daystarter: Inside a suicide hotline center; St. Petersburg residents storm city council with allegations; should Rays trade Chris Archer?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today brings a 50 percent chance of rain and high temperatures in the mid to upper 80s, according to the National Weather Service.• As you head out for your morning commute, check out...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

TAMPA — Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and other countries are beginning to push up prices and depress demand in spots around the Tampa Bay area and Florida, business executives say."We’ve definitely seen that the tariffs have increased ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Get this: Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender

Get this: Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender

This surprised me: Little ole Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender, loaning out more to the industry than financial heavyweight Wells Fargo and Bank of America.Those factoids were part of a lengthy profile of the bank pub...
Published: 07/20/18

Carlton: Rotary Clubs support no-women-allowed dinner. What year is this?

Going "stag" sounds so old-fashioned — boys night out, sans the gals.But it’s not so outdated in certain Rotary clubs in the Brandon suburbs and still rural Plant City. There, the decades-old no-women-allowed tradition of the yearly stag Wild Game Ni...
Published: 07/20/18
Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer wants the Rays to get going.Trade more veterans. Bring back Willy Adames and bring up the next group of kids. Get on with getting better, and get back to reaching the postseason, as they did four times over six yea...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Chickens remain free to range in Ybor

Chickens remain free to range in Ybor

TAMPA — Ybor City chickens have escaped the political chopping block — again.The Tampa City Council on Thursday declined to do anything about a wild flock of poultry that drew a loud, strong throng of supporters to City Hall to ask council members no...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Activists camp out in protest at Tampa’s Homeland Security, ICE offices

Activists camp out in protest at Tampa’s Homeland Security, ICE offices

TAMPA — The national movement to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency came to Tampa on Thursday night — and it’s in tents.Approximately 25 local activists gathered next to Cypress Drive in front of the local Department of Homeland S...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome shoots 78 in PGA Tour debut

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome shoots 78 in PGA Tour debut

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome survived her first round on the PGA Tour at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., on Thursday, and she can't wait to do it again Friday.Though Lincicome shot 6-over 78 and will likely miss the cut — she ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Longtime Tampa Catholic athletic director Nick DiMaggio dies

Longtime Tampa Catholic athletic director Nick DiMaggio dies

Nick DiMaggio, the longtime athletic director at Tampa Catholic who was a fixture at the school's sporting events for more than 50 years, died Wednesday (July 18, 2018) from complications related to a stroke. He was 86."Nick was an icon, a walking en...
Updated: 8 hours ago