Monday, August 13, 2018
Politics

Candidate Yvonne Fry, partner of former prosecutor Ober, made $30,000 from his office

Over a decade, a telecommunications company owned by state House candidate Yvonne Fry received more than $120,000 in public money working for government agencies in Hillsborough County — including about $30,000 from the office of her longtime romantic partner, former State Attorney Mark Ober.

Fry speaks openly on the campaign trail about her work for local governments, saying she gets satisfaction helping save taxpayers' money by revamping voice and data communications systems.

She dismisses any suggestion that she got taxpayer-funded work through her connection with Ober while he held elective office from 2001-2016.

In an interview, Fry said her company has worked for government agencies "all over the state," and that until it ended this year, the work made up 10 percent to 20 percent of business for her company, Lines of Communication.

Fry said the company was eligible to perform the work because it earned a spot on a list of state-certified vendors for phone and information technology services. Ober's office was not the first agency she worked for, she said.

But his office was among the first to hire her company in Hills­borough, where it eventually did work for county government, Plant City, the clerk of court, property appraiser, elections supervisor and public defender, agency documents show.

And the State Attorney's Office provided the company a strong recommendation to a state agency in 2012, according to the documents. What's more, the company's website includes praise for its work from Ober and another executive in his office, and a company bid to do government work lists the office as a reference.

Fry, who is divorced and has two children, said she and Ober have been a couple for about 10 years. She sometimes refers to him as "my better half."

But Ober had nothing to do with her contracts, she said.

"I never dealt with Mark on this," she said.

"The work was about results. We made our pitch on the merits, and every one of them has valid results."

Fry faces Lawrence McClure in a special Republican primary vote Tuesday to fill the District 58 House seat of Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City. The winner will be a favorite in the Dec. 19 general election.

Direct payments to the company from county agencies since 2011 total $125,000, according to records and officials' estimates.

Ober, a Republican, left the State Attorney's Office after losing his re-election bid to Democrat Andrew Warren in November. At about the same time, the state contract list expired, and Florida now uses a different process for choosing vendors.

Fry said her company hasn't done government work since then because the new procedure is difficult for a small contractor and she's busy with private sector work.

Ober said he never helped Fry obtain government contracts.

"Yvonne's work speaks for itself," he said in an email message to the Tampa Bay Times. "Her work with the State Attorney's Office was initiated and managed by my executive director. As I recall, she completed all contracted work and produced a cost savings for our office."

Fry's company also saved money for the Hillsborough Property Appraiser's Office — $15,000 to $16,000 a year on phone bills, said Warren Weathers, chief deputy. Ober wasn't a part of the hiring decision, Weathers said.

The company did about $23,000 to $24,000 worth of work for the office in 2013, soon after Democrat Bob Henriquez took over as property appraiser, Weathers said.

"You get pitched by a lot of vendors, and I was pretty skeptical, but it worked," he said. "It was an overall good experience."

Invoices provided by the Clerk of Court's office, which serves as comptroller for local government agencies, show the State Attorney's Office under Ober paid Lines of Communication $31,205 from 2011 through 2016 for an audit and to manage systems.

Other records suggest the office worked with the company several years earlier, too.

In 2012, W.E. Donahoe, then executive director of the State Attorney's Office, wrote a recommendation for the company to the state Department of Management Services, saying Lines of Communication had worked with the office since February 2009.

"Would highly recommend . . . to any organization seeking assistance with their data and communications needs," Donahoe wrote.

In addition, on its website, Lines of Communication published a "case study" of the work it did for Ober's office, which quoted Donahoe and Ober praising the company.

And in a February 2012 proposal by Lines of Communication for work in the Clerk of Court's office, references were included from three local government agencies — the State Attorney's Office, the Election Supervisor's Office and the city manager of Plant City.

Contact William March at [email protected]

 
Comments

Pasco Political Notebook for Aug. 17

Republican Club hosts candidate forum at meetingThe West Pasco Republican Club will host an "Election Extravaganza" candidate forum at its meeting Aug. 21 at Heritage Springs Country Club, 11345 Robert Trent Jones Parkway, Trinity. A social time will...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting Pasco County begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 25, with 11 locations across the county for voters.Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 20-24, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

LARGO — There will be no suspense in the city when elections arrive Nov. 6. In fact, there will be no election at all, because all four city commissioners whose seats were up were re-elected by default when no one came forward by the end of the candi...
Published: 08/13/18
Florida candidate tried to prove she’s a college graduate. The school says her diploma is fake.

Florida candidate tried to prove she’s a college graduate. The school says her diploma is fake.

The political kerfuffle around Melissa Howard began when a news site reported that the Florida state House hopeful is not a college graduate, as she claims to be. To prove the story wrong, Howard, R, reportedly flew to her proclaimed alma mater, Ohio...
Published: 08/12/18
Romano: Two years later, politicians still ignoring Florida voters on medical marijuana

Romano: Two years later, politicians still ignoring Florida voters on medical marijuana

The war is over, except no one in Tallahassee has bothered to read the news.And so Florida continues its daft fight against medical marijuana. All of which means patients are being left behind, voters are getting ignored, and lawyers are buying fanci...
Published: 08/11/18
Hillsborough, tops in state for drug-addicted babies, will file suit against opioid makers

Hillsborough, tops in state for drug-addicted babies, will file suit against opioid makers

TAMPA — Hillsborough County plans to file a lawsuit next week against companies that manufacture opioid drugs, alleging that aggressive marketing of painkillers worsened the opioid crisis.The county joins a number of other local governments nationwid...
Published: 08/10/18
Ex-aide Omarosa says she refused hush money, pens White House memoir calling Trump racist

Ex-aide Omarosa says she refused hush money, pens White House memoir calling Trump racist

WASHINGTON — Omarosa Manigault Newman was offered a $15,000-a-month contract from President Donald Trump’s campaign to stay silent after being fired from her job as a White House aide by Chief of Staff John Kelly last December, according to a forthco...
Published: 08/10/18
Carlton: Sorry, Gov. Scott, but college students can early vote after all. Hey, USF, talking to you here...

Carlton: Sorry, Gov. Scott, but college students can early vote after all. Hey, USF, talking to you here...

Good news, at least for those of us who keep believing in that old-fashioned notion that voting should be open and accessible to everyone who’s qualified.Even if they’re, say, young voters. And even if certain politicians do not like the direction in...
Published: 08/10/18
Sheriff finds himself at center of political stand your ground storm

Sheriff finds himself at center of political stand your ground storm

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has never been one to shy away from tough decisions.He’s also not known to back off from explaining them publicly.So his 30-minute and 55-minute news conferences to talk about why he didn’t arrest Michael Drejka ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Retired attorney and businesswoman challenge two-term Hernando commissioner

Retired attorney and businesswoman challenge two-term Hernando commissioner

BROOKSVILLE — As the District 2 Hernando County commissioner, Wayne Dukes hopes his public service over the past eight years has earned him another term on the board. But two other Republicans on the ballot for the Aug. 28 primary election would like...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18