Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Politics

March column: Frank says veteran's lawsuit a non-issue

County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, running against Clerk of Court Pat Frank, is citing a 2007 lawsuit against Frank as an example of what he calls mismanagement of the clerk's office and mistreatment of a veteran. But Frank says there's nothing there.

Beckner's domestic partner Gil Sainz has posted material on the clerk's Facebook page criticizing Frank on the issue, and Beckner, who's launched several attacks at Frank, says it will come up in the campaign.

"I don't discriminate against military people," Frank responded. "My husband of 63 years had three battle stars from World War II. I respect those who serve in battle."

The case concerned former clerk's office supervisor and Army reservist Tracey Marshall, who went on a brief deployment in 2005, Frank's first year as clerk. When Marshall returned, she was reinstated at the same level but in a different area, Frank said. Later, she was moved from the office's felony division to the traffic division.

That caused her to lose a $100-a-month bonus for felony division workers to compensate for after-hours job demands.

Marshall sued, represented by the U.S. Justice Department, alleging Frank had violated a law requiring that reservists returning from deployment be reinstated at their former level and pay.

In a settlement, Frank agreed to pay Marshall $2,500, including $1,250 in back pay, but denied any wrongdoing. Marshall remained at the clerk's office until 2011.

Frank said Marshall got several raises and a promotion between the time she returned from the deployment and the time she sued. Frank has since ended the bonus for felony section workers.

She said around 18 other clerk's office employees have gone on deployments and returned, without complaints, during her tenure, and the problem with Marshall was "an aberration."

Marshall's transfer to the traffic division was routine, Frank said.

"We move people around all the time — we have to use them where they're needed. But she was not demoted, and there was no finding by the government that we violated the law — they acknowledged that."

She said settling the lawsuit instead of fighting it "made economic sense."

Reddick backs Harrison over Montelione

City Council member Frank Reddick, a Democrat, says he's supporting Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison over fellow council member and Democrat Lisa Montelione in the District 63 state House race.

Reddick said that's not because of any problem he has with Montelione. He's just become friends with Harrison.

Reddick said he and Harrison became friends and often political allies when they served on the City Council after Reddick joined as an interim member in 2006.

"He was very supportive of me in getting some issues done in East Tampa when I didn't have the support of others," including closing a public nuisance bar, he said. "We became friends, and he supported me in my previous campaign."

Reddick said he's talked to Montelione about it.

What's he going to do with all that money?

As of May 31, Sheriff David Gee was the top fundraiser among local candidates with $372,840. But as of late last week, just before the end of qualifying, Gee had no prominent opponent — only a GOP primary challenger, Kevin Carrier, who's raised just $301.

What's he going to do with it all? Give it back, he said through a spokesman.

In 2012, facing only a write-in opponent, Gee raised $248,945, and returned all but about $30,500 to his donors.

Tax Collector Doug Belden, the second-place fundraiser, has raised $208,306, though he was unopposed as of late last week. In 2012, also unopposed, he returned about 86 percent of the $121,770 he raised.

But while all that money is sitting in the bank, it scares off any potential challengers.

William March can be reached at [email protected]

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