Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Supporters rally to keep Van Gorden as Zephyrhills mayor

ZEPHYRHILLS — In the first City Council meeting since Mayor Steve Van Gorden became embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, residents lined up to show their support of keeping Van Gorden in office.

Van Gorden resigned earlier this month as principal at Zephyrhills High School, where employees said he made unwanted sexual advances and comments toward them, creating an uncomfortable and threatening workplace. He has acknowledged he did not behave appropriately, but said he hopes to continue serving as mayor.

Supporters like Trevor Gray, who met Van Gorden through volunteer work with military organizations, said he should get another chance.

"He hasn't strayed from the truth, he's accepted responsibility," Gray told council members on Tuesday evening. "To me, that is good character.

"It's a shame that all of this had to happen," Gray added, "but people should recognize his service and that he still has many more years of service to give."

Zephyrhills business owner Marsha Decena said she believes Van Gorden is still the right person to serve as mayor, a largely ceremonial position with no voting authority.

"A man should be judged and measured by his accomplishments rather than by his indiscretions," Decena said. "He's been held accountable for his actions."

After the allegations against Van Gorden became public earlier this month, council president Kenneth Compton asked city attorney Joseph Poblick to prepare a report on the council's options. Neither Compton nor Poblick were able to attend the meeting Tuesday evening, and officials said the report is not yet ready.

Van Gorden said it's his understanding the report would outline three options:

1. The council could take no action.

2. The council could vote to censure Van Gorden.

3. A four-fifths supermajority could vote to impeach.

Van Gorden said he was thankful and humbled by the residents who came out to support him. Eight people spoke in his defense, and each speaker was applauded by others in the audience.

Van Gorden said he is going to counseling and taking sensitivity training as he tries to put his life back together.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I'm human, but I'm not running from it. I'm trying to move forward."

The fallout has extended beyond the school district and City Hall. Van Gorden has also requested a 60-day leave from his post as president of the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce. Vonnie Mikkelsen, executive director of the chamber, said the organization has neither accepted nor rejected his request. That board will discuss what action to take, if any, when it meets next week.

"The leadership is taking a close look at it and trying to make an informed and reasonable decision," she said.

As for the city investigation, council vice president Lance Smith said after the meeting that he will push for Poblick's report to be completed as soon as possible. He hopes the council can decide what action to take at its Nov. 27 meeting.

Times staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report.

Comments
Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

PHILADELPHIA — Not even a coat of Crisco on light poles across the city could keep Philadelphia Eagles fans from scaling new heights in celebrating their team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years and setting up a rematch with the AFC champion N...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Hooper: Deal with sea-level rise or prepare to be inundated

When fans again flock to Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard for the annual Gasparilla Festival on Saturday, I hope they ask a question: Will the floats need flotation devices in 2035?Erika Spanger-Siegfried, Astrid Caldas and Kate Cell, members of the Union ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Warm weather remains, but cold front will bring rain to Tampa Bay

Forecast: Warm weather remains, but cold front will bring rain to Tampa Bay

A warm weekend across Tampa Bay will carry over into the start of the workweek, after some morning fog burns off and before a front results in clouds and increased rain chances later this afternoon.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa...
Updated: 2 hours ago

The Daystarter: PolitiFact Florida analyzes prison costs; breaking down the Super Bowl matchup; free dental clinic services in high demand; Arrrrr you ready for Gasparilla?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• We’ll have a mild and sunny start to the week, with highs in the upper 70s, according to 10Weather WTSP. A weak cold front brings a chance of rain on Tuesday and slightly coo...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Police: 2 IEDs detonated at a Florida mall, no injuries

LAKE WALES — Police say two improvised explosive devices ignited inside a mall in central Florida on Sunday do not appear to be an act of terrorism.Lake Wales police Deputy Chief Troy Schulze tells news outlets that at 5:22 p.m., the Lake Wales Fire ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
PolitiFact Florida: Claims about prison price-gouging decry $17 soup, $18 tampons

PolitiFact Florida: Claims about prison price-gouging decry $17 soup, $18 tampons

Advocates of Florida prisoners protested outside of the Florida Department of Corrections in Tallahassee on Tuesday, demanding answers to questions of alleged price-gouging in prisons across the state.Protesters from dozens of grass roots organizatio...
Published: 01/22/18
Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

CHICAGO — It didn’t take the sound of a door slamming in the visitor’s dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay believed it had worked hard against the Wild — at least, harder than it did in Thursday’s letharg...
Updated: 9 hours ago

nationResearchers work to avoid another 1918 super-flu The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after on...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Hillsborough diver who died in Eagle’s Nest Cave was adventurous but experienced

Davin Brannon was a pilot, a spearfisherman, an avid cave and open-water diver and an experienced all-around adventurer, said those close to him ."I guess you could say he died doing what he loved," his cousin Pam Kirven said. "But I also know he’d n...
Updated: 10 hours ago
‘Three Billboards’ sweeps female-focused SAG Awards

‘Three Billboards’ sweeps female-focused SAG Awards

LOS ANGELES — The Western-inspired revenge tale Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri swept the female-focused and led Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday with wins for best ensemble, best actress for Frances McDormand and best supporting actor for...
Updated: 10 hours ago