Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough commissioners may seek tax dollars lost due to 2010 BP oil spill

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners are seeking to hire a law firm to go after lost taxes resulting from the 2010 BP oil spill, hoping for a windfall in the millions of dollars.

The unanimous vote Wednesday came after commissioners heard from lawyers from a Miami-based firm pitching themselves for the job. They said the county could be owed anywhere from $2.2 million to nearly $50 million from lost tourism caused by perceptions that Florida as a whole had been spoiled by the northern Gulf of Mexico gusher.

Great idea, commissioners said, before opting to seek bids for the legal work.

"There is nothing here for the county to lose," said Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who invited the lawyers to speak. "There is also upside for our county residents."

Any firm hired would be asked to work on a contingency basis, meaning they'll get paid only after collecting a reimbursement for the county. They would get a percentage of the recovery and bids would be judged partly on how large — or rather, small — a cut the firms seek.

Pinellas voted a week ago to retain the firm Colson Hicks Eidson of Coral Gables to go after some $3 million in taxes and fees the county estimates it lost due to the spill. That firm agreed to a contingency fee of 25 percent of what it gets back for Pinellas County, 5 percent more if an appeal becomes necessary.

Lawyers working with the Miami-based firm Farrell & Patel approached Beckner about two months ago saying that, while the Hillsborough shoreline was not tainted by tar balls, it may have nevertheless suffered losses.

State tourism officials, who are also seeking money from the disaster, contend Florida generally suffered from perceptions that its shorelines were fouled, causing potential visitors to schedule vacations elsewhere.

In any disaster, "it's not just ground zero that is affected economically," lawyer Wesley J. Farrell told commissioners.

He presented commissioners with figures showing that BP has paid more than 8,000 claims emanating out of Hillsborough County by private property owners and businesses, totaling $75.6 million.

Frederick Kuykendall III, a lawyer originally from Alabama who has joined forces with Farrell & Patel, said the perception is that BP has settled all claims. But he said the process to seek redress, particularly for governments, is ongoing. "What we want you to do is hire us," Kuykendall said.

He said the firm has retained accountants and other financial experts adept at isolating tax declines related to lost tourism. The firm was recommending that the county submit a claim rather than file a lawsuit.

It provided an initial analysis that estimates the county may have lost as much as $2.2 million in tourist taxes ­— charged to people who stay in hotel rooms — alone. Other taxes on things ranging from car rentals to alcohol and cigarette taxes could drive the figure much higher.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said his staff has not tried to craft a thorough estimate of taxes lost due to the spill.

While commissioners said they appreciated the presentation, they said they felt it was necessary to seek bids for the work in the interest of transparency.

"It's the right way to do business," said Commissioner Les Miller.

In other action:

• Commissioners voted unanimously to hire the Rocklin, Calif.-based executive recruiting firm Ralph Andersen & Associates to seek and screen applicants for the county attorney vacancy. Former County Attorney Renee Lee was dismissed last June and acting County Attorney Don Odom is scheduled to retire in July.

• After getting snubbed by an advisory committee's top choice for their vacant internal auditor position, commissioners agreed to seek a headhunting firm to find applicants for that job as well. The recruiters would present a list of candidates, which would again be vetted by the audit advisory committee before a finalist is presented to commissioners. That position has been vacant since May 2010, when commissioners sacked former auditor Jim Barnes.

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or [email protected]

Comments
Lightning Round 2 playoff tickets on sale Monday

Lightning Round 2 playoff tickets on sale Monday

Single-game tickets for the Lightning's Eastern Conference semifinal series go on sale to the general public at 1 p.m. Monday at nhl.com/lightning/tickets.The Lightning plays the winner of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series. Game 6 of that series is Monda...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

TAMPA — As usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't speak in front of the cameras after the game. He has been like that since he hit the NHL. He still isn't comfortable with his English on TV.But Vasilevskiy spoke loudly and clearly in the first-round ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

ST. PETERSBURG — Good pitching and hitting go hand in glove, but the Rays did not look like a team that could swing the bats very well until this completed homestand.In their series sweep over the Twins, Tampa Bay scored 8, 10 and 8 runs. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Rays-Twins

Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Rays-Twins

–Yonny Chirinos may be the Rays fourth starter, but it seems to be in name only. He was lifted after pitching 4 2/3 innings against the Twin on Sunday, the shortest start of his career and his second-shortest appearance.  "Going into the g...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG — With every swing, there is a chance Carlos Gomez is going to do something extraordinary with the baseball bat.He may swing so violently that he spins himself into the ground as if he were an oil drill. Or, you could see him sna...
Updated: 3 hours ago

nationwideTravelers face delays as jet engines inspectedScores of Southwest Airlines travelers were facing delays or cancellations Sunday due to emergency inspections following the mid-air explosion of an engine on one of the airline’s 737s last week...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Waffle House hero says shooter would’ve had ‘to work to kill me’; another crude Theta Tau frat video surfaces at Syracuse; more in U.S. news

Waffle House hero says shooter would’ve had ‘to work to kill me’; another crude Theta Tau frat video surfaces at Syracuse; more in U.S. news

TennesseeShooter had ‘to work to kill me’The man who wrestled the gun away from the nearly naked Waffle House shooter in Nashville said Sunday if he were going to die, the gunman would "have to work to kill me." Police and Waffle House CEO Walter Ehm...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Sun., April 22, midday:2-2 7-3-9 4-4-6-8e_SRit3-8-8-6-0Sun., April 22, evening:6-2 8-6-0 8-3-9-8e_SR...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Islamic State suicide bomber kills 57 in Afghan capital

Islamic State suicide bomber kills 57 in Afghan capital

Associated PressKABUL, Afghanistan — An Islamic State suicide bomber carried out an attack at a voter registration center in the capital Kabul on Sunday, killing 57 people and wounding more than 100 others, said officials from the Afghan interior and...
Updated: 4 hours ago