Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Police: Intoxicated Clearwater official crashed golf cart, battered diner during Oktoberfest

RECOMMENDED READING


CLEARWATER — One of the city's top government employees was arrested over the weekend after police said he drove a golf cart while intoxicated into outdoor tables at the Clear Sky restaurant on Cleveland Street, grabbed a patron filming the incident out of a chair by the neck and fled the scene.

Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor, 38, was transported to the Pinellas County Jail but was not booked, according to the arrest affidavit. Instead he was entered into the Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program at 4 a.m. Sunday, which allows adults arrested for low-level crimes to avoid jail by completing community service, counseling or drug treatment.

He was placed on paid administrative leave by the city on Monday, according to communications director Joelle Castelli.

City manager Bill Horne said Tuesday, "An exit decision has been made. He will be leaving the city. What's not finalized is how he's going to do that." Horne said it will be decided today whether Taylor will resign or be fired.

Ryan Waller, 36, said he was sitting outside the restaurant with his wife and friend Saturday and called police twice between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. to report Taylor driving a golf cart with no headlights on the sidewalk. Taylor ran the golf cart into tables and potted plants, screaming they were not Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant and should be moved, Waller said.

When Taylor refused to leave after being asked by restaurant employees, Waller said he began recording the incident.

"He put his hand up when he noticed me recording and said 'What are you, a Scientologist?' " Waller said.

Waller, an Army reservist who served in communications in Afghanistan, Africa and Qatar between 2007 and 2010, said Taylor then approached, put him in a rear choke hold and pulled him out of his chair. Waller said his military training clicked into gear and he was able to shake the 6-foot-2 Taylor off before he fled.

"Having been deployed and all that stuff, I don't sit with my back to people," Waller said. "When he did that, it stirred something in me I hadn't felt in some time."

Clearwater police responded to the incident, which occurred during the House of Beer Oktoberfest Celebration, about 11:40 p.m. Officers arrested Taylor nearby around 1 a.m.

Taylor was hired in July 2016 after working in neighborhood revitalization in New York City and was tasked with helping to redevelop downtown.

He launched an aggressive incentive program in June, offering businesses $250,000 grants for renovations, to cover rent, buy furniture and other startup costs if they locate downtown for at least five years.

Taylor has sparred with the Church of Scientology, downtown's largest landowner, after speaking out against Scientology leader David Miscavige's now-rescinded offer to invest in infrastructure renovations and retail recruitment. Church officials have refused to work with Taylor after his public comments on the issue earlier this year.

In a handwritten letter to Horne on Monday, Taylor said, "it is difficult to put into words the shame and embarrassment I feel."

Taylor asked him to consider the steps he's taking to learn from the event and seek treatment to "live a healthier and more productive life."

"Downtown redevelopment is a calling for me, and I can assure you that I will take this incident as an opportunity to come back more focused and with a greater sense of humility for the career I am fortunate to have," Taylor wrote. "Bill, I am asking for a second chance to prove myself."

Clear Sky owner Dan Shouvlin said Tuesday that he has a good working relationship with Taylor and holds no ill will for the behavior.

"Frankly, we hold no animosity towards him as a company," Shouvlin said. "He was having a bad day."

Waller said he had no injuries beyond a bruised leg. But he wants to see Taylor charged criminally.

"He needs to go volunteer at a veterans facility so he can learn what service members are sacrificing for him,'' Waller said, "and he needs to make a sizable donation to one of those."

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

Comments
Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

We want your news! Hometown Pasco is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether it’s snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well do...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Call Missouri jinxed, but Michael Porter Jr. injury is its own story

Please repeat after me: There is no such thing as jinxes, hexes, ghosts or cartoonish black clouds looming with personalized curses for select targets.Honest.But, boy, are there coincidences — even if some say there is no such thing as those, either....
Updated: 6 hours ago
Cambridge Christian’s Caleb Young makes up for lost season

Cambridge Christian’s Caleb Young makes up for lost season

TAMPA — For Cambridge Christian, last Friday’s Class 2A region final against Indian Rocks Christian represented a hurdle that the Lancers couldn’t quite clear a year ago. For one Lancer in particular, it was the Golden Eagles themselves that brought ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

TAMPA — Third and long, normally an ideal situation for an NFL defense, continues to be a problem as the Bucs try to get opposing offenses off the field.In the second half of Sunday’s game, the Dolphins converted six third downs when they needed 8 ya...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

TAMPA — The Bucs face the defending NFC champions twice in their final six games. As they prepare to go to Atlanta on Sunday, former Tampa Bay first-round pick Adrian Clayborn is enjoying quite a two-week run.Clayborn, 29, had six sacks Nov. 12 in a ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

TAMPA — It’s the biggest football game in USF history.It’s two days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. The 9-1 Bulls against the 10-0 Knights. It’s USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost. It’s the best these two programs ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Chip Kelly is not the best candidate for Florida job

For the sake of a beleaguered and bedraggled fan base, here’s hoping Chip Kelly becomes the next head coach of the Florida Gators even though I think he’s not a great fit — culturally, geographically and philosophically — at UF.Gator Nation needs som...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Lane Kiffin knows speculation about his future grows with each victory

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin already knows what profession he will choose once his coaching career ends.Kiffin, in his first season at Florida Atlantic, thinks he is destined to join the sports-media ranks. It will provide him opportunity to switch roles...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Strong’s slip about UCF’s Griffin seen as motivation for Knights

Strong’s slip about UCF’s Griffin seen as motivation for Knights

TAMPA — While saying nothing to purposely fan the flames of the USF-UCF rivalry during his weekly news conference Tuesday, Bulls coach Charlie Strong provided fuel for the Knights’ best player.He used the H-word when discussing Knights senior outside...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Miami up to No. 2, behind Alabama, in College Football Playoff rankings

Miami up to No. 2, behind Alabama, in College Football Playoff rankings

Miami moved up to No. 2 behind Alabama in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, with Clemson slipping one spot to three and Oklahoma holding at four. Wisconsin and Auburn remained next up behind the top four in a week when the...
Updated: 6 hours ago