Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tallahassee judge reverses board's decision on WorkNet Pinellas employment agency branch

A bicyclist in search of recyclables pedals past a vacant building in the East Gateway neighborhood, where WorkNet Pinellas wants to open a new branch.


A bicyclist in search of recyclables pedals past a vacant building in the East Gateway neighborhood, where WorkNet Pinellas wants to open a new branch.

CLEARWATER — A Tallahassee judge has overruled the city's decision to block an employment agency from opening a new local branch, saying the rejection was based on fear and misconceptions.

WorkNet Pinellas asked for approval last year to move into a vacant building in the East Gateway neighborhood, where job seekers could find career counseling and resume-writing classes by invitation only.

City officials supported the plan. But East Gateway residents rallied against it, worried that it would attract more vagrants into a neighborhood notorious for day-labor firms and seedy motels.

A city zoning board in February voted to reject WorkNet's plan, saying the neighborhood already had too many social-service agencies, including a soup kitchen and a now-closed homeless shelter and day center.

But after an appeal by WorkNet and property owner Nemishawn Inc., Administrative Law Judge J. Lawrence Johnston has reversed the board's "unreasonable" ruling.

The branch at 1315 Cleveland St. would serve as a governmental agency, which is allowed in the city's neighborhood plan, Johnston wrote in a final order. The Community Development Board had disagreed with that classification without explaining why.

The board's rejection, Johnston wrote, hinged less on facts and more on neighborhood fear and speculation. Both were "in large part based on misunderstandings."

The board's attorney, Gina Grimes, said members could discuss filing an appeal to the Circuit Court at its meeting next Tuesday. Member Doreen DiPolito said the board was advised not to discuss the pending litigation.

Two East Gateway property owners who spoke out against the plan, Donna Maxa and Gilbert Jannelli, also have the right to appeal. Maxa, who owns Maxa Enterprises, a nearby court-reporting business, said she couldn't afford the litigation.

WorkNet spokesman Bill Griffiths said the agency would wait for any further appeals before pushing forward with the project.

Worknet has said the branch would have no public resource rooms or walk-in services in an effort to attract fewer vagrants. A third of the building would hold Coordinated Child Care, a not-for-profit that helps low-income families afford day care.

Federally funded, WorkNet Pinellas was created in 2001 as one of the state's two dozen local workforce boards. The agency offers training, job fairs and help for veterans from two Clearwater offices, on Barry Street and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

Maryce Garber, who owns a home in the East Gateway, said the judge's ruling would further solidify her neighborhood as "a mecca for the downtrodden."

"We take two steps forward and three backward," Garber said. "We want nice shops, nice houses to live in. Not people lying on the street with a wine bottle in their hands."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or

Tallahassee judge reverses board's decision on WorkNet Pinellas employment agency branch 07/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 7:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. 13-year-old Janessa's father holds memorial service at Rogers Middle School


    RIVERVIEW — About 100 people sat in the tile-floored multipurpose room Saturday at Rodgers Middle School where Janessa Shannon once sat as a student.

    A mourner embraces Nahshon Shannon after the memorial service for Nahshon’s daughter, Janessa, Saturday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.
  5. Trump: Aircraft carrier a symbol of America's might (w/video)


    NORFOLK, Va. — With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a "100,000-ton message to the world" about America's military might when it is ultimately deployed.

    President Donald Trump commissions the USS Gerald R. Ford on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.