Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

St. Pete Beach commission moves to fire city manager

ST. PETE BEACH — Residents here were reminded this week that elections have consequences — in this case the surprise move to fire longtime city manager Mike Bonfield.

On Tuesday, newly elected Mayor Maria Lowe and Commissioner Terri Finnerty, supported by veteran Commissioner Melinda Pletcher, voted to oust Bonfield.

Their action prompted the abrupt resignation of Commissioner Jim Parent and sharp criticism from newly elected Commissioner Greg Premer, who said he also considered resigning but decided to remain on the commission to honor the residents who just elected him in March.

"The decision was made in haste," Premer said to loud and sustained applause from a packed audience at a special meeting Wednesday night.

The latest upheaval in the city's government is a clear reflection of more than a decade of political and legal fighting — costing nearly $2 million — over whether the city should grow as a significant tourist destination or retain a small-town character focused first on its residents but with a strong tourist and commercial contingent.

Lowe said Wednesday that she had been considering the move against Bonfield for some time, but only made up her mind this week.

She said her actions came from a desire to remove the "stranglehold" that litigation has had on the city's redevelopment.

"Change is never easy," she said, stressing that residents do not need to be fearful of the change.

Lowe said she wants a fresh perspective for the city, while Finnerty called for an era of change and a new city manager who has energy and is proactive in addressing issues.

"The city is not in a good place right now," said Pletcher.

Bonfield he did not appear at the Wednesday meeting, instead proposing he voluntarily resign in exchange for the city guaranteeing that he receive his full severance package as outlined in his contract.

"I have fully enjoyed my 12-plus years working in St. Pete Beach and am proud of the many things that have been accomplished," Bonfield wrote in an email to the commission. "I fully respect your decision to make a change in leadership and wish you and the community well in all future endeavors."

Under the proposed agreement, Bonfield would receive six months' salary, benefits and accrued sick and vacation time, a package totaling $104,495, as well as six months' worth of premiums for health, dental and life insurance.

Under city rules, Bonfield could have requested a public hearing to contest the termination.

Despite the crowded commission chamber Wednesday night, Lowe deferred public debate on the proposed agreement until another special meeting Wednesday.

At that time the commission will also discuss holding a special election to fill Parent's vacant seat.

Comments
Pregnant mother Paige Howard wins women’s Gasparilla 15K

Pregnant mother Paige Howard wins women’s Gasparilla 15K

TAMPA — Initially, Tampa's Paige Howard was a little reticent about joining the pre-dawn throng at the starting line of Saturday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K.On a morning when temperatures began in the mid-60s and climbed, Howard's ...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Trump processes Fla. students’ grief as president, parent

Trump processes Fla. students’ grief as president, parent

WASHINGTON — Once again, it was the images of children that propelled President Donald Trump to act. Trump spent the first days after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida fixated on the grieving and anguished students and parents. While at his Flor...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

Roughly 20 minutes into Saturday morning's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, reigning champ A.J. Richmond glanced over his left shoulder to former college teammate Jon Mott and flashed a quick hand signal."He was telling me that the two guys in...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Live blog: 2018 Gasparilla Distance Classic

Live blog: 2018 Gasparilla Distance Classic

The Tampa Bay Times will be there for every step of this year's Gasparilla Distance Classic. Whether you'll be walking, skipping, jogging or sprinting across the 5K, 8K, 15K or half-marathon finish, join us by using #gasparillarun.(function(d, s, id)...
Published: 02/24/18
The real Jefferson Memorial has a statue, but this one has a jukebox

The real Jefferson Memorial has a statue, but this one has a jukebox

The building was in its infancy when a vintage Cadillac Eldorado rumbled up the construction path. Getting out, the driver demanded to know what the finished structure was intended for.Told that it would be a private home, the driver scoffed. The uni...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Feb. 23

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 2, Crystal River 0BaseballCalvary Christian 9, Countryside 2Northeast 15, Tarpon Springs 1
Published: 02/23/18
Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

TALLAHASSEE — A bombshell that South Florida police ignored tips that a teenager was planning an assault on a school and then failed to stop him when he attacked seems destined to complicate the election-year discussion around mass shootings.Even in ...
Published: 02/23/18
Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

WASHINGTON — A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, three people fami...
Published: 02/23/18
Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — Arthur D. Showley, 75, went fishing early Friday morning, something he did two or three times a week, friends said. When they saw his car and trailer still parked near a community boat ramp at 2 p.m., they thought that was strange."He never ...
Published: 02/23/18
Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature have rolled out their ideas for change in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But would these measures have made a difference in the worst mass...
Published: 02/23/18