Friday, February 23, 2018
Politics

Hillsborough commissioners seek legal advice about talking to Tampa Bay Rays

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners Wednesday asked their attorney to tell them, effectively, if they can dance with St. Petersburg's date.

Commissioners voted 6-1 to ask Interim County Attorney Don Odom to review the contract that governs the Tampa Bay Rays' commitment to the city of St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field.

They want to know whether they can talk to team owners about how long they intend to keep playing there and to see what can be done to ensure the Rays stay in the region.

Or would such an entreaty amount to "tortious interference" in someone else's business dealings — a form of meddling St. Petersburg City Attorney John Wolfe has said would leave the meddlers "individually" liable for monetary damages?

"I do not believe the agreement prevents discussion with the Rays about their future," said commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who initiated the question.

Hagan said he has reviewed the agreement. But he's not a lawyer, so he wants one to advise him. He gave no timeline but expressed frustration that since he first made overtures about the team two years ago, there has been little movement.

Rays owners have said repeatedly they cannot continue playing at Tropicana Field through the end of their contract with St. Petersburg, which is 2027. A business coalition that studied the issue suggested the team might be better off in Tampa, closer to more people and potential corporate supporters.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has said the team is bound by its contract, period, and others should butt out. And Wolfe, his city's attorney, has had this pithy response to people who have talked of courting the team to Hillsborough: "More defendants."

Hillsborough Commissioner Al Higginbotham, the lone vote against consulting his county's attorney, said he thinks his fellow board members are "walking on thin ice." He then offered his own adaptation of an analogy first uttered by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and co-opted and twisted by others since.

"If we're going to be the boyfriend that breaks up the marriage, I'm not going to take part in that," Higginbotham said. "Because (the husband) could have a big fist and a very strong arm."

Other commissioners also expressed caution, while supporting Hagan's request to get information — a tradition the board has generally honored.

They said they want to make sure that if the attorney says county officials can talk with the Rays that any subsequent talks are just that, not negotiations.

Commissioner Victor Crist said the county would be wise to engage representatives of other governments, and possibly the private sector, to take part. And beyond the legal questions, Commissioner Kevin Beckner said he wants to make sure fellow board members don't stir up animosity from Hillsborough's neighbors.

Commissioners generally said they agreed professional baseball is a regional asset that has an economic benefit across Tampa Bay. Any discussions should be framed that way, they said.

"I think everybody realizes the economic impact, and we want the Rays to stay here," Beckner said. "But this does need to be a regional effort and we need to make sure we're not coming in as the 800-pound gorilla trying to disrupt current negotiations."

Comments
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the president’s call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention — the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House — CNN’s Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to the Republican’s affair with a woman in 2015. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced the indictment Thursday. She launched an ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trump’s club

Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trump’s club

Two weeks after President Donald Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the gala’s organizer said.Rizzuto and his wife, Den...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

New charges were filed Thursday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, ratcheting up the legal pressure on them as they prepare for a trial later this year.A new indictment has long been expected in special cou...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.How do we know?Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. That’s because a ban deals only with fut...
Published: 02/22/18
Focused on Cuba’s future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

Focused on Cuba’s future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

TAMPA — One highlight of a congressional delegation’s visit to Cuba this week was an impromptu meeting with President Raul Castro.But not for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.The Tampa Democrat joined five other Democrats on the trip, in part to investigate th...
Published: 02/21/18
Melania Trump’s parents are legal permanent residents, raising questions on ‘chain migration’

Melania Trump’s parents are legal permanent residents, raising questions on ‘chain migration’

The parents of first lady Melania Trump have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship, according to people familiar with their status, but their attorney declined to say how or when the couple...
Published: 02/21/18
Alex Trebek will moderate a Republican debate in the Pennsylvania governor’s race

Alex Trebek will moderate a Republican debate in the Pennsylvania governor’s race

We’ll take "surprising side gigs" for $1,000! "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek will moderate a debate among Republican hopefuls vying for the Pennsylvania gubernatorial nomination.The longtime game show star will be questioning candidates at an Oct. 1 for...
Published: 02/21/18
Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

SPRING HILL — A Hernando County woman new to the political arena has filed as the fifth Democrat to run against longtime Florida lawmaker U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster for his spot in the U.S. House of Representatives.Dana Cottrell, 49, has lived in Sprin...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/21/18