Friday, January 19, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa council member criticizes reorganization that cost official his job

TAMPA — One day after Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled a reorganization that ousted four employees from the Clean City program, City Council member Frank Reddick claimed the administration is putting its middle managers in fear for their jobs.

"Managers who are employed in this city government should be worried, should not be able to sleep at night," Reddick said during a 15-minute monologue at the council's meeting Thursday. "I would be filling out resumes right now trying to get the hell out of this government."

Reddick especially criticized the decision to eliminate the job of Clean City manager Jim Pinkney, 52, a city employee of more than 12 years, as unfair, disrespectful and "cold-blooded."

Pinkney, whose salary was $89,981 annually, had received excellent and outstanding ratings on performance reviews, something acknowledged by the city's top neighborhood official.

So Reddick said it was wrong for Pinkney to lose his job after an audit of the Clean City program found a poor record of responding to requests for service, questionable spending, slipshod monitoring of contractors hired to work for the city and spotty record-keeping.

City officials answered that Buckhorn's reorganization, which will combine Clean City with code enforcement, is creating new management and supervisory jobs that require a wider and more sophisticated set of skills than Pinkney and the other laid-off supervisors had.

The new supervisors will not only oversee Clean City's work to maintain roads and medians, but also must have a working knowledge of the city's codes and how they are enforced. Former Tampa police Maj. Sal Ruggiero, they said, is being hired for a job with a higher classification than the one Pinkney had.

Reddick contended it would have been more fair to suspend Pinkney or put him on probation.

And he said getting rid of Pinkney and three of his supervisors was inconsistent with past city practice. No one, he noted, was fired after a critical audit of the water department. (The report, in September 2011, uncovered a meter-reading problem that likely inflated some customers' bills the previous winter by as much as five or 10 times above normal.)

In response, Buckhorn said that if Reddick read the city charter, he would see that the council doesn't have jurisdiction in the day-to-day running of City Hall, especially the hiring or disciplining of city employees.

"We've got a good work force here, and I think people like coming to work," Buckhorn said. "There's a new energy here. The only people who have to worry at night are those who are not doing their job and not living up to expectations."

The problems in the water department occurred before he was elected, Buckhorn said, and, "I had nothing to do with it except for cleaning up."

Buckhorn said Pinkney, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, was counseled many times during his years with the city, often by chief of staff Santiago Corrada, who oversaw parks and recreation when it directed the Clean City program.

"Clean City needed to be fixed," Buckhorn said, saying there were morale problems, issues among supervisors and poor production. "We made changes. That's what I do. I fix things."

In other business, the council asked for a report on April 4 on what resources may be available to repair the historic Cuscaden Pool. The pool has been closed for three summers after a $2.5 million renovation in 2005 failed to prevent further leaks that closed it in 2010.

Residents of the V.M. Ybor and East Ybor neighborhoods said a lack of city action to fix the pool has been "pathetic."

"We keep getting Band-Aids and putting splints on something that needs open-heart surgery," said Fran Costantino, president of the East Ybor Historic & Civic Association.

Repairs are estimated to cost at least $1.3 million, parks and recreation director Greg Bayor told council members.

Council members suggested two possible sources of funds.

First, several said they have heard from a handful of prominent local businessmen who swam in the pool as boys and say they would raise funds privately.

Also, council members suggested the city could use money once earmarked for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility.

On Thursday, the council voted to seek about $2.57 million from an $11.67 million fund that was created in 1996 with money from the Community Investment Tax.

The original plan was for the money to go to the Bucs once the team built a practice facility and deeded it to the Tampa Sports Authority. But the team has never done that, so last summer the Sports Authority agreed to make the money available to local governments.


Want to buy into an exchanged-traded bitcoin fund? You might have a long wait

NEW YORK — It may be a while, if ever, before investors can buy an exchange-traded fund made up of bitcoin and other digital currencies. Federal regulators have a long list of questions they want answered before they’ll approve a digital currency fun...
Updated: 12 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Child psychologist weighs in on mom who charges 5-year-old ‘rent’

Child psychologist weighs in on mom who charges 5-year-old ‘rent’

A Georgia mother has gone viral for charging her 5-year-old "rent." Yup — the kid pays up for food, water, cable and electric, too.Essense Evans described in a Facebook post how she handles her daughter’s allowance. The post, written on Saturday, was...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Addicted to your smartphone? Now there’s an app for that

Did you text? Sorry, I can’t see messages right now. Arianna Huffington locked my phone.The media tycoon turned wellness entrepreneur wants to keep you out of your phone, too, with a new app called Thrive. Its goal is to make it cool for a generation...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Scott appoints prosecutor, Clearwater lawyer to Pinellas-Pasco judicial vacancies

Gov. Rick Scott appointed two Tampa Bay lawyers to fill judicial vacancies in the Pinellas-Pasco circuit, his office announced Friday.Christopher LaBruzzo, 42, is an assistant state attorney at the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office. A Tulane Uni...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

PALM HARBOR — The former president of a local youth football league is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the group and using it in part to buy a mobile home.According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies on Tuesday arrested L...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Crews Lake thespians overcome the odds

SPRING HILL — It’s 8:30 a.m. — "homeroom" period in school speak — when kids in the Crews Lake Middle School drama club file into an empty chorus room to begin rehearsing under the direction of language arts teacher Kristen Sykora. There’s only 25 m...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Proposed monument near St. Pete pier would honor Tony Jannus history-making flight

Proposed monument near St. Pete pier would honor Tony Jannus history-making flight

ST. PETERSBURG — Tony Jannus’s history-making flight in an early seaplane — simultaneously as ungainly and graceful as a pelican on the wing — is what Mayor Rick Kriseman calls an "under-told and under-appreciated" story, but a team of local history ...
Updated: 2 hours ago