Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jim Smith land deal clouds county election

When the Jim Smith land deal exploded into view last summer, conventional wisdom was that the scandal would overshadow Pinellas County's 2008 elections.

But on Friday, as qualification for the ballot closed, just two candidates linked to the controversy remain: County Commissioner Karen Seel and property appraiser candidate Pam Dubov, who worked for Smith.

Smith, the county property appraiser, announced in November that he would not run. Commissioners Bob Stewart and Ronnie Duncan, who took part in the 7-0 vote to buy Smith's land, opted not to seek re-election.

And Commissioner Ken Welch was automatically re-elected Friday when no one filed to run against him.

The remaining three commissioners aren't up for re-election for another two years.

But that won't stop Seel and Dubov's opponents from raising the issue.

Norm Roche, a Democrat challenging Seel, a Republican, in the general election Nov. 4, contends the commission's actions spoke to their disregard for taxpayers and a lack of curiosity about the work of the county staff.

"I would say in core principle she failed to do her duty," Roche 46, said of Seel. "And not just her, seven out of seven of them, to be fair, failed to do their duty."

Commissioners raised no questions in public last June before approving the $225,000 purchase of a small vacant parcel Smith owned in North Pinellas. The sale was meant to resolve Smith's claim that county work crews had damaged his land doing flood mitigation. The amount was nearly quadruple what Smith's office had assigned the lot for tax purposes.

In August, after the St. Petersburg Times highlighted the deal, a grand jury issued a damning report. While no one was indicted, the report condemned how the deal's handling. The commission fired its county attorney, Susan Churuti. County administrator Steve Spratt was forced to resign.

Seel, 49, repeated Friday that Spratt assured her in a private meeting before the vote that the deal was handled appropriately.

Seel said she wishes she had asked Spratt publicly the question she put to him privately, but believes she most likely would have gotten the same answer.

"Things just don't get past me," Seel said. "That fact that this one did really bothered me, because during my history of public service, I think I have made people more accountable."

Dubov, who has never answered questions before about the Smith deal, did so for the first time Friday, a day after she resigned her post as deputy property appraiser in Smith's office to campaign.

Dubov said she warned Smith the public would look askance at the difference between the appraised value and the sales price.

In the Aug. 26 primary her opponent is Frank Gregoire. The winner will face Democrat Ben Friedlander in the general election.

A private appraiser for 30 years, Gregoire, 55, said Dubov should have gone public with her feelings about Smith's decision to cut a deal with the county.

Jim Smith land deal clouds county election 06/21/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 5:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

    National

    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”