Saturday, January 20, 2018
Politics

Helicopter ride leads to ethics complaint against Tampa council's Guido Maniscalco

TAMPA — An opponent of a controversial rezoning for St. Joseph's Women's Hospital has filed an ethics complaint against Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco, contending he did not report a helicopter ride he got from the hospital as a gift.

Under Florida law, elected officials are required to disclose when they receive gifts valued at more than $100, except from relatives and certain other people in close relationships.

But that's not what Nancy Huerta said happened.

"On May 12, 2015, Mr. Maniscalco was provided use of the St. Joseph's Hospital's trauma helicopter for a joy ride around the city of Tampa," she said in a complaint last week. "The helicopter tour was not part of any official business. … It goes without saying that a trip in a trauma helicopter far exceeds the $100 limits placed on gifts."

Moreover, the complaint says the ride took place just before St. Joseph's filed an amended lawsuit against the city in a long-running dispute over a rezoning request to tear down an old parking garage and replace it with new parking lots. When her attorney made a public records request for Maniscalco's calendar, it says, he got a blank page in reply.

On Monday, Maniscalco acknowledged taking the ride as part of a tour of the hospital. He said it did not affect his vote on the St. Joseph's rezoning.

"That's silly to think so," he said. Asked whether he reported the ride as a gift, Maniscalco said, "I don't see how you can put a monetary value on it. It's not available for public use. It's part of the tour."

The hospital invited Maniscalco, then a new member of the council and a representative for the area, on the tour as it routinely does with local and state elected officials and community leaders, said Keri Eisenbeis, director of government relations for Baycare Health System, which includes St. Joseph's.

The goal was to give Maniscalco an understanding of how busy the hospital is and the range of services it offers. He was interested in emergency care, and the helicopter ride was a byproduct of that part of the tour, Eisenbeis said, not an attempt to sway him on the rezoning.

"It's not uncommon for this to happen," she said.

Maniscalco said he had not received anything from the state notifying him of the ethics complaint.

"When that happens, I plan to dispute the allegation and defend it," he said. He said the complaint is "clearly, directly tied" to the rezoning.

"To me, it's a type of bullying," he said.

Huerta filed her complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics the week after a City Council vote on St. Joseph's rezoning.

The rezoning case had dragged on for more than three years, with the City Council denying the application, St. Joseph's filing its lawsuit and neighbors attempting to intervene in the case.

On Feb. 11, after discussions related to a possible settlement, the council approved a site plan that included a landscaped "linear park" between the proposed new parking lot and W Lake Avenue, where neighbors who oppose the rezoning live.

The vote was 4-2, with Frank Reddick and Yvonne Yolie Capin voting no. Charlie Miranda abstained because his house on W Lake Avenue is near the proposed parking lots. While abstaining from votes on the rezoning, Miranda has addressed the council as an interested homeowner, a vocal opponent of the rezoning and a critic of the hospital's record as a neighbor. Monday night, he said he had nothing to do with the ethics complaint.

Comments
U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON ó The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trumpís inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunctio...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

NEWARK, N.J. ó U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez might spend 2018 asking voters to re-elect him and jurors to acquit him. Prosecutors from the Department of Justice told a federal judge in New Jersey on Friday that they will seek a retrial of the Democratic sen...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Romano: If UCF is national champion, then Iím a Hollywood stud

Romano: If UCF is national champion, then Iím a Hollywood stud

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said people were entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.Clearly, Moynihan never dealt with Florida legislators.Because around Tallahassee, facts are fungible. They arenít just up for ...
Published: 01/19/18
Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

WASHINGTON ó A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being dep...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

CLEARWATER ó Voters may not be too familiar with the name John Funk.So since launching his campaign for City Council Seat 5 against well-known incumbent Hoyt Hamilton, Funk said he has knocked on 2,000 doors to introduce himself. Before the March 13 ...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

CLEARWATER ó By asking voters to elect him into office a fifth time, Hoyt Hamilton knows heís now considered part of the old-guard. Born and raised in Clearwater, his family roots stretch back here more than 100 years. Hamilton, 59, spent nearly his ...
Published: 01/19/18

Q&A: Government shutdown looms. Hereís what you need to know

Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown.Hereís what that means. Why would the government shut down?Every year, Congress has to approve laws, known as appropriations, that provide money for federal agen...
Published: 01/18/18
Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

REDINGTON SHORES ó There will be no election this year, but the changeout of commission members that began last year will continue. When the new commission is sworn in this March, four of five members, including the mayor, will have changed within th...
Published: 01/18/18
Rick Baker leaving Edwards Group, promoting new book

Rick Baker leaving Edwards Group, promoting new book

ST. PETERSBURG ó Rick Baker is opening a new chapter in his life. So far, the future remains an open book.The former two-term mayor announced Sunday that heís resigning his position as president of the Edwards Group effective Jan. 31.Baker has worked...
Published: 01/18/18
Madeira Beach voters have clear choices as battle lines form over growth

Madeira Beach voters have clear choices as battle lines form over growth

By Sheila Mullane EstradaTimes CorrespondentMADEIRA BEACH ó Voters here can either end or continue the cityís divisive politics on March 13. They will also decide how the city grows.The two commission seats that now represent pro-growth and pro-devel...
Published: 01/18/18