Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Port Richey won't have fireworks show this year

PORT RICHEY — The city won't have a Fourth of July fireworks show after all.

The nonprofit Celebrate Port Richey ran out of time to plan this year's event because of a lingering controversy over how city funds were spent on last year's fireworks show at Waterfront Park.

"It's with a heavy heart that I tell you this," Celebrate Port Richey leader Jim Priest, a former council member, told City Council on Tuesday evening.

He told the Times the plans for this year stalled while several sponsors waited to see the results of an ethics complaint involving last year's event.

Kevin Hamm, a former contract employee who became a regular critic of Port Richey officials, filed the state ethics complaint last year questioning the way the city provided $5,000 to Celebrate Port Richey for the show.

Celebrate Port Richey then turned the funds over to a fireworks company, B&B of Port Richey, co-owned by then-Vice Mayor Bill Colombo, who is currently serving as acting mayor, and former council member Bill Bennett.

In complaints against Colombo and police Chief David Brown, who then served as interim city manager, Hamm accused the city of attempting "to hide the financial transaction" and failing to seek competitive bids for the fireworks show. Colombo and Bennett said they received no financial gain from the show, spending all of the money on fireworks.

Now, almost a year later, the state ethics commission has cleared both Colombo and Brown of any wrongdoing in this case. "It came back the way I expected it to come back," Colombo told the Times.

But the news didn't come in time to get this year's show on track.

Council members lamented the city wouldn't have its own fireworks show this Fourth of July. But they suggested Celebrate Port Richey — which has received another $15,000 this year from the city for special events — could plan a fireworks show for the city's upcoming anniversary or for Labor Day.

"I'm saddened that we can't bring this forward," said council member Steve O'Neill. "But I don't think we are going to miss next year."

In an interview with the Times after the meeting Tuesday, Priest criticized Hamm for bringing the complaint when the only motive of city officials and Celebrate Port Richey was to show residents a good time.

"I guess he just wanted to get his chunk of flesh out of the city," Priest said. "We thought we did everything right and we now know we did."

Reached for comment Wednesday, Hamm questioned the ruling by the state ethics commission. He said it troubled him that the panel found nothing wrong with city funds being used to hire a sitting council member's company.

"If they had gone about it properly, put it out to bid, they would not have had a problem doing something this year, next year, or any other year," Hamm said of the city.

Comments

Video: Chick fil-A feeds thousands of hungry travelers stranded in Atlanta airport

Chick fil-A is normally closed on Sundays, but it made an exception for the thousands who were stranded at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.The travelers were left in the dark following a power outage that forced cancellation of more ...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
St. Pete-Clearwater airport expects holiday parking crunch, so consider arranging a ride

St. Pete-Clearwater airport expects holiday parking crunch, so consider arranging a ride

CLEARWATER — With passenger traffic picking up on Monday and expected to stay strong through Dec. 29, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport says it could run out of parking spaces, so passengers should consider making arrangements to be dropped o...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

For decades, Americans were told that Area 51 didn’t really exist and that the U.S. government had no official interest in aliens or UFOs. Statements to the contrary, official-sounding people cautioned, were probably the musings of crackpots in tinfo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Another reason to buy a home in Tampa Bay--- downpayments are lower here

Another reason to buy a home in Tampa Bay--- downpayments are lower here

Times Staff WriterHomebuyers in the Tampa Bay area don’t have to shell out as much on downpayments as buyers in many other places. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, the median downpayment for a bay area home in the quarter ended in September was $1...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Multiple fatalities as Amtrak train derails south of Seattle

Multiple fatalities as Amtrak train derails south of Seattle

TACOMA, Wash. — An Amtrak train derailed south of Seattle on Monday, spilling train cars onto a busy interstate and authorities reported "multiple fatalities."The train derailed about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Seattle before 8 a.m.Amtrak says...
Updated: 1 hour ago
ESPN chief Skipper resigns, cites substance abuse problem

ESPN chief Skipper resigns, cites substance abuse problem

NEW YORK — John Skipper, president of the sprawling ESPN sports network, said Monday that he is resigning to treat a substance abuse problem.Skipper’s sudden announcement will force the Walt Disney Co.-owned network to search for new leadership at a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Monday night football preview, Bucs vs. Falcons

Cannon Fodder podcast: Monday night football preview, Bucs vs. Falcons

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman has a final preview of tonight’s Bucs-Falcons game — Matt Ryan’s history with the Bucs, how Tampa Bay will handle its absences on defense and a few Ring of Honor hypotheticals as well … Listen below: ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Top 5 at noon: The hole in DJJ’s beefed-up screening process; can Gruden coach Bucs again?; and more

Top 5 at noon: The hole in DJJ’s beefed-up screening process; can Gruden coach Bucs again?; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.ALTHOUGH FLORIDA JUVENILE JUSTICE SAID IT WOULD WEED OUT BAD HIRES, SOMEHOW THIS GUY SLIPPED THROUGHWhile the beefed-up screening governs how the Department of Juvenine Justice hires officers...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Riverview father accused in daughter’s murder tells judge he wants to drop his attorney

Riverview father accused in daughter’s murder tells judge he wants to drop his attorney

TAMPA — Nahshon Shannon wants to drop his attorney.Shannon, accused of murdering his 13-year-old daughter, argued in court Monday morning that Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Spradley should be removed from his case.His main complaint was that Spr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
American Social tries to draw a young Tampa crowd with New York prices

American Social tries to draw a young Tampa crowd with New York prices

TAMPAPaul Greenberg and Rick Mijares believe something. They believe that millennials are nostalgic for a time they didn’t live through. American Social, the long-anticipated waterside restaurant adjacent to Jackson’s on Harbour Island, reads like a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago