Tuesday, January 23, 2018
News Roundup

Outspoken candidates battle in race for Kenneth City mayor

KENNETH CITY — The candidates for mayor of this town have at least two things in common — forceful personalities and strong opinions.

The resulting clash has spiced up many council debates in a town already known for cantankerous wrangling among elected officials. That's carried over into the campaign season as Mayor Teresa Zemaitis, council member Joanne DeSimone and their supporters have wrangled over their differences. That should end with Tuesday's mayoral election, which is open to all Kenneth City voters, not just Republicans.

Also on the ballot is a proposed change to the town charter that will allow a charter review commission to be appointed every five years beginning this year. The current charter limits review to every 10 years.

While that decision may seem dull, the mayor's race is not.

DeSimone, 68, has accused Zemaitis of wasting money and of blocking her attempts to do her job as head of the town's department of buildings and public recreation.

Some of the wasted funds, she has said, include those spent to refurbish Town Hall, which included replacing carpet and tiles. The money, DeSimone said, could be better spent on redoing the Community Hall, where more citizens congregate.

Both decisions — to redecorate the Town Hall and buy the carpet and tiles — were made by the whole council. The first was made before DeSimone was elected to the council. The vote on carpet and tiling was 4-1, with DeSimone being the only vote against.

Zemaitis, 43, counters that DeSimone is fiscally irresponsible. Evidence, she said, includes DeSimone's statement at a budget workshop last year that she would willingly increase taxes to ensure town employees receive a raise.

The two also differ over Zemaitis' handling of citizen complaints concerning the Police Department, which the mayor first raised during a 2010 budget workshop. Minutes and a tape of the workshop show Zemaitis did talk about the complaints as a basis for wanting to fire Chief Doug Pasley and restructure the department.

The remainder of the council did not agree and DeSimone accused Zemaitis of overstepping the boundaries of her office. DeSimone motioned that the item "be tabled and not brought before the council again." Zemaitis asked if DeSimone was willing to look further into the department and DeSimone said no, not without proper documentation and reviews. The council, she said, was satisfied with Pasley.

Zemaitis said she continued receiving complaints but was unable to do anything without violating the state's open records law or without the council's permission to discuss issues at an open meeting. Instead, she asked then-Sheriff Jim Coats to investigate the department. The investigation found multiple instances of poor management.

Again, the council disagreed with Zemaitis and voted to retain Pasley. DeSimone says Zemaitis' decision to call in the sheriff overstepped her bounds and embarrassed the town.

Zemaitis said she had no other choice.

Contact Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

Comments
Forecast: Morning rain leads to clearing skies, comfortable conditions for Tampa Bay

Forecast: Morning rain leads to clearing skies, comfortable conditions for Tampa Bay

A gray, wet morning commute will lead to more sunshine as a cold front approaches Tampa Bay on Tuesday.[WTSP]Check the latest Tampa Bay-area live radar: The showers are moving in off the Gulf of Mexico, especially affecting early-morning motorists i...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Neil Diamond says he has Parkinson’s, retires from touring

Neil Diamond says he has Parkinson’s, retires from touring

NEW YORK — Neil Diamond is retiring from touring after he says he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who turns 77 on Wednesday, is canceling his tour dates in Australia and New Zealand for March. He was on his 50...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Today: Death penalty decision coming in Seminole Heights murders

Today: Death penalty decision coming in Seminole Heights murders

TAMPA — Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren is set to announce Tuesday whether he intends to seek the death penalty for the 24-year-old man accused of killing four people southeast Seminole Heights last year. Warren scheduled a 10:30 a.m...
Updated: 1 hour ago
What you need to know for Tuesday, Jan. 23

What you need to know for Tuesday, Jan. 23

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• Those Monday evening showers could linger to saturate Tuesday morning’s commute, according to 10Weather WTSP. They’ll move out by the afternoon as a cool — not quite a cold —...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Want to annoy an education leader in Florida?Tell them they’ve turned your child’s school into an assembly line of tiny test takers. Tell them innovation and imagination and excitement are rapidly disappearing in favor of teaching to the test.And whe...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Pinellas to look at high school start times today

Pinellas to look at high school start times today

Pinellas County school district officials have spent weeks analyzing bus routes and brainstorming ideas to see if later high school start times could be a reality this August.Today will tell how far they have come.Clint Herbic, associate superintende...
Updated: 10 hours ago
What’s your most romantic food story? We want to hear it

What’s your most romantic food story? We want to hear it

Calling all romantic foodies: We want to hear about your tales of love and food. For Valentine’s Day this year, we’re looking into some famously adorable dishes, like Engagement Chicken, a roast chicken first published in Glamour magazine in 2004 tha...
Published: 01/23/18
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Turns out, Andrei Vasilevskiy is all right.And, believe it or not, so is the Lightning’s penalty kill, which was the unlikely hero in Monday’s streak-snapping 2-0 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center.Vasilevskiy, 23, played like the...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

New York TimesWASHINGTON — Congress brought an end to a three-day government shutdown on Monday as Senate Democrats buckled under pressure to adopt a short-term spending bill to fund government operations without first addressing the fate of young un...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Male bicyclist struck, killed by vehicle in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A male bicyclist was struck and killed by a vehicle on U.S. 19 on Monday night, according to Pinellas Park police.The incident took place at about 8:30 p.m. along the 8000 block of U.S. 19 N, near the Walmart Supercenter.The driver wa...
Updated: 8 hours ago