Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Seminole fire chiefs reprimanded after improper flag display

SEMINOLE — Three district chiefs have received written reprimands for allowing an American flag to be improperly displayed on a fire truck.

Disciplined were Rick Koda, Richard Schomp and Greg Smith.

Koda, 49, has worked for Seminole since November 1987. He earns about $78,000 a year. Schomp, 46, began working for the fire department in July 1987. He earns about $79,000 a year. Smith, 58, has been employed by Seminole fire since October 1985 and earns about $86,500 a year.

Seminole has an established policy over display of the flag, fire Chief George Bessler said.

"The district chiefs did not uphold the policy that was given to them," he said.

Koda, Schomp and Smith could not be reached for comment.

Their punishment is the first fallout of an incident that resulted in Seminole officials facing national scorn and being labeled un-American cowards and worse when media outlets picked up a claim on Facebook that they had ordered the removal of an American flag from its fire trucks.

That was untrue, Seminole officials say.

The real story, they said, began when one or more firefighters hung a flag in the window of a fire truck. A resident complained that the flag was displayed improperly and city officials ordered it removed until a way could be found to fly the flag in accordance with the flag code.

They also pointed out that each truck already carried flag decals and a flag patch is on firefighter uniforms, so the city is hardly opposed to the flag.

But that's not the way it came across, and Seminole's officials took a beating for a few days. They blamed the Facebook posting for causing the brouhaha. Now, they're investigating to see if the city's social media policy was violated.

The policy is about a year old, but just a few weeks before the flag incident, Bessler sent an email to his employees concerning a Miami-Dade firefighter who was demoted over comments he made on Facebook. Bessler took the opportunity to remind firefighters about Seminole's policy.

"While I am not aware of any inappropriate comments from our personnel, the reason for this email is a simple proactive reminder of our moral, ethical and regulatory obligations to post responsible social media comments," Bessler wrote.

"It is everyone's responsibility to make sure our community continues to have trust and respect in all of us; to ensure our profession is not unnecessarily disparaged due to inappropriate comments, and finally, to ensure no one is needlessly disciplined."

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

Comments
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

A Pasco County man was struck and killed in an apparent hit-and-run early Saturday, police said.Thomas Michael Burdeshaw, 53, who lived on Sundance Drive in Dade City, was hit about 1:45 a.m. on the 36000 block of Blanton Road, police said.Witnesses ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

CLEARWATER — Police are looking for a person who shot and killed a man late Friday at the Melrose on the Bay apartments on Bolesta Road. Ricardo Guzman, 32, called 911 just before midnight and told the operator he had been shot, said Lt. Randall Chan...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

TAMPA — A motorcyclist driving north on Memorial Highway died after he crashed into a guard rail late Friday, police said."The man failed to negotiate a curve in the road and struck a guard rail," said Lt. Brett Owen. "No other vehicle was involved i...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely unable to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother,...
Updated: 5 hours ago
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Cops used dead man’s finger in attempt to access his phone. It’s legal, but is it okay?

Cops used dead man’s finger in attempt to access his phone. It’s legal, but is it okay?

LARGO — Most people agree what the Largo detectives did at the funeral home was legal.What they diverge on is whether it was appropriate."I just felt so disrespected and violated," said Victoria Armstrong, whose fiance, Linus F. Phillip, was shot and...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

DUNEDIN — After losing a four-run lead thanks to a bad sixth inning, it would have been easy for Clearwater Central Catholic to fold against Dunedin in the final of the 49th annual Dunedin Spring Tournament. But quality relief pitching from Gar...
Published: 04/20/18